Cinnamon Marshmallows

It’s taken three years, but I finally feel like I have made all possible interesting variations of caramel and nut brittle.  So, my holiday sweets experimentation for 2017 was making marshmallows.  I don’t like sticking to the usual flavors (actually there seems to only be one common flavor of marshmallow), so I whipped up a few batches of cinnamon marshmallows for holiday presents.  I did not expect them to be such a hit, as in general, I and most people I know are not especially big fans of marshmallows, but the comparison between homemade marshmallows vs. store bought packaged ones is like watching magic close up and live vs. watching magic on a tiny airplane TV screen (like this one).

Some of my favorite comments in response to eating my cinnamon marshmallows include:

  • “I didn’t know you could make marshmallows at home from scratch.  Don’t they just come from the store?”
  • “I don’t usually like marshmallows, but these are ridiculous.”
  • “I’m hiding these from my family.”
  • And from someone who never asks me for anything, “Do you have more marshmallows?”

Making marshmallows involves strict adherence to the recipe and no substitution of the main ingredients, so if you tend to improvise and don’t have a candy thermometer, it’s best to skip this one.

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Cinnamon Marshmallows

Makes  95 one-inch marshmallows
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

3 ounce (3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/8  ounces (1/4 cup) cornstarch
Cooking spray
4 (four) 1/4-ounce packets unflavored powdered gelatin
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, or 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste ( prefer using vanilla bean paste)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Directions

  1.  Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch into a medium bowl.
  2. Generously coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan (preferably one with straight sides) with cooking spray. Dust it well with about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture, tapping any excess back into the bowl; set aside.
  3. Put 3/4 cup cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and stir until lump-free. Set aside to hydrate, at least 5 minutes.
  4. Put 1/2 cup cold water, the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon stick in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the pan; add the pod, too. Stir with a heatproof spatula just to combine (try not to get any sugar on the sides of the pan), then bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
  5. When the syrup reaches 240°F, begin beating the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the speed down to low.
  6. At this point, the syrup should be 250°F. If so, remove the vanilla pod (if using), and remove the cinnamon stick.
  7. Increase the speed on the mixer to medium low, and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl. (If not, turn the mixer off until the syrup reaches temperature and turn it on before adding the syrup.)
  8. With the mixer running, break the hydrated gelatin into several pieces, and add it to the bowl one piece at a time, beating until incorporated.
  9. Increase the mixer speed to high, and beat until the marshmallow is white, thick, and almost tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  10. If using vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, add it now.  Add the ground cinnamon, beating until just combined.
  11. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan, smoothing it into the corners with an offset metal spatula.
  12. Sift about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture evenly over the top. Let set at room temperature for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
  13. Run the tip of a paring knife around the edge of the baking pan to loosen the marshmallow, and invert the pan onto a large, parchment-lined cutting board. Lift a corner of the pan and carefully free the corner of the marshmallow with your fingers, after which it will fall onto the board. Generously coat a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray and cut the marshmallow into 1-inch pieces, respraying the knife as needed.
  14. Gently toss each marshmallow in the remaining confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat, shaking off the excess.

Note: Store the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

Almond-Pistachio Vanilla Nougat Candy- no recipe

Following a successful and encouraging first experience at making nougat (see Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites), I got cocky and decided to make nougat candy with a limited amount of add ins so that the nougat would really stand out as the main component.  The nougat recipe I chose sounded especially promising because it had a good amount of honey in it, and pistachios and almonds would provide just the right richness and balance to the sweetness.  However, once I started cooking, my attitude changed very quickly.  Never have I ever hated a recipe as much as I hated this one.  I was irritated and stressed by EVERY SINGLE step involved in making the nougat.  At every step of the way, I was sure the final result would be failure.  Somehow I pushed through, with each step getting more difficult and frustrating, and at the end of it all, somehow, miraculously, I had amazingly delicious little squares of Almond-Pistachio Vanilla Nougat Candy.  I don’t know how that happened, but one thing I know for certain is that I will never ever ever never ever never never make this recipe again.  So, you will not find the recipe below, but enjoy the photo.

The bane of my existence, but oh so delicious.
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Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

(Sung to the tune of the Beatles “Let It Be”)
“When I find myself in times of trouble
Candy bars are there for me
Easing all the stress
De–li–cious–ly”

A series of flight delays and other airport hassles on a Sunday night led me to treat myself to a See’s Candies Nut & Chew Bar from an airport See’s kiosk.  And you know what?  It made my travel experience a little sweeter and inspired me to make nougat from scratch.  Most people barely know what nougat is, and you don’t really need to know much more than that it’s the chewy stuff that holds together a Snickers bar.  My experimentation with nougat was in the form of Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites- a mini twist pretzel covered in a mound of chewy, fluffy nougat with two roasted almonds on top, smothered by dark chocolate.  It turns out the nougat wasn’t as difficult to make as I thought it would be, but it still requires proficient use of a candy thermometer and coordination skills that allow you to slowly and carefully pour boiling hot sugar into a rapidly turning mixing bowl.  So, it’s definitely not a process for the candying making novice.  That said, the results are pretty ridiculously delicious.  Note, the nougat doesn’t take too long to make (under an hour), but it takes quite a bit of time to individually assemble each of the candies.  Plus chilling time is needed, so this recipe can be quite a time intensive project.

The nougat in all its beauty and glory.  You can see the candies to the left before they’ve been covered with chocolate.
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Hours later, the Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites are ready to eat.
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Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

Makes approximately 100 pieces
(From Hand-Crafted Candy Bars)

Ingredients

Mini twist pretzels (buy a big bag to make sure you have enough.  The number of pretzels you use will depend on how much nougat you pile on top of each pretzel)

Nougat

3 egg whites
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) corn syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whole roasted almonds, approximately 1 pound (16 ounces)

1 pound of melted dark chocolate (I used a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate bar)

Directions

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the pretzels on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Nougat

  1. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, and continue to boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 235°F on a candy thermometer (about 6 minutes).
  4. When the sugar mixture has reached 235°F, begin whipping the egg whites on low speed, just until they are a bit bubbly.
  5. Continue cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches 245°F.  Take it off the heat.
  6. With the mixer on low, pour a splash of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the space between the rim of the bowl and the whisk attachment.  Make sure not to add too much sugar syrup at a time because it could cook the egg whites.
  7. Continue whisking, and slowly add the rest of the hot sugar syrup.
  8. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the nougat reaches a full, frothy foam (about 4 minutes).
  9. Add the vanilla and salt to the nougat.
  10. Keep whipping at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-6 minutes.
  11. Allow the nougat to cool in the bowl, and once it has reached room temperature, you’re ready to assemble the candy.

Assembling the Candy

  1.  Using two spoons or a small cookie scoop, put a mound of nougat on each pretzel.
  2. Lightly press 2-3 whole almonds on top of the nougat.  Repeat with all the pretzels.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl set over a boiling pot of water.
  4. Spoon the melted chocolate over the almond/nougat, and spread lightly over the sides if desired.
  5. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Note: These can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.  I prefer to keep them in the fridge.

Beer & Pretzels Caramels

I’ve made so many variations of caramels that it’s about time that I experiment with beer caramels.  Typically, the smell and flavor of beer is a bit too strong for my taste, so I started out conservatively by using a pale ale with a somewhat intimidating name and label (New Belgium Voodoo Ranger) but seemingly less aggressive flavors of citrus and tropical fruit from eight hops and low bitterness.  The end result was a caramel with a hint of citrus and fruitiness and a slight dryness in taste.  You can definitely taste the beer, especially at the end, but the caramel flavor still shines through.  I layered mini pretzels on top since I’ve been told that pretzels go well with beer, and they provide a good textural contrast and a bit of saltiness.

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Beer & Pretzels Caramels

Makes 80 pieces of caramel (depending on size.  I like to cut them small as these are packed with flavor)
(from Craftbeer.com)

Ingredients

2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup corn syrup
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer (pale ales work well)
Sea salt
Pretzels (I used mini pretzels)

Directions

  1. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan with high sides, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat until well combined.
  3. Slowly add beer and corn syrup, and stir well.
  4. Add the sweetened condensed milk, and keep stirring constantly.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble up quite a bit.
  5. Cook caramels to 244-246°F.  This can take up to 20-30 minutes.  Do not stop stirring once the sweetened condensed milk is added or the caramel will burn.
  6. Once the caramel reaches you reach 244-246°F, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
  8. Sprinkle a light layer of sea salt on top of hot caramels.  Use less sea salt if you’re also including salted pretzels.
  9. Lay the pretzels on top of the warm caramel.
  10. Let the caramel set until firm enough to cut.  I used the refrigerator to help speed up the cooling process.

Chocolate Caramels

These Chocolate Caramels are proof that the best recipes don’t need to come from a fancy cookbook or famous chef.  This recipe for Chocolate Caramels was included when I ordered candy wrappers.  The ingredients are basic, and the instructions are simple, yet the caramels are utterly sublime.  They taste a lot like See’s Candies chocolate lollipops but with a chewy caramel texture.  I made a few slight modifications like adding a little bit of cinnamon and a finishing salt.  Adding 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon provides a hint of cinnamon without overpowering the chocolate.
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Chocolate Caramels

Makes a 9×9 inch pan of caramels.  The number of caramels will depend on the size that you cut them.
(from Caramel Wrappers.com)

Ingredients

3 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup cocoa (I prefer natural high fat cocoa powder)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finishing salt to sprinkle on top (optional, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes is always one of my favorites)

Directions

  1. Butter a 9×9 inch pan or line it with parchment paper.  I prefer using parchment paper as it makes it easy to remove the caramels from the pan.
  2. Mix the sugar, light corn syrup, cocoa, butter, and whipping cream in a heavy, large saucepan.
  3. Boil, stirring constantly until a candy thermometer reaches 248°F.  If you want slightly softer caramels, cook the caramels to 246°F.  Don’t boil the mixture too vigorously, otherwise the caramel will burn.  Also stir the mixture constantly and don’t take your eye off of it to keep it from developing hot spots and burning.  It will take a while (15 minutes or more) for the caramel to reach the right temperature so just keep stirring.  Your patience will be rewarded.
  4. Take a caramel off the heat, and quickly, but carefully whisk in the vanilla and cinnamon (be careful as the vanilla may cause the caramel to bubble up a bit).
  5. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt on top of the caramels.
  7. When cool, cut into small squares with a buttered knife or pizza cutter and wrap in waxed caramel/taffy wrap or waxed paper. I really like the convenience and look of cellophane candy wrappers.

Note:  The caramels will keep for two weeks in an airtight container at room temperature and longer if refrigerated.  Bring them to room temperature before eating.

Hazelnut and Almond Brittle

Because it’s not slathered in chocolate or piled high with toppings, I always forget how utterly delicious and super addictive nut brittle is.  This nut brittle recipe is proof that keeping it simple is super.  I used whole hazelnuts and almonds, but you can use nearly any nut you like.  One of my favorite things about this recipe is that although the brittle is hard, once you bite into it, it has an airiness and light crunch to it, and the richness of the nuts provides a good contrast to the sweet caramelized sugar.  I’ve been told that this brittle was so delicious that people fought over the crumbs.

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Hazelnut and Almond Brittle

Makes one 11 x 17 inch sheet
(from Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America by Peter P. Greweling)
My notes are in [ ] below.

Ingredients

1 pound (2 cups) sugar
4 ounces (1 1/2 cup) water
12 ounces (1 cup) light corn syrup
1 pound (3 cups) [I’ve used 13-14 ounces of nuts too, and it didn’t seem to skimpy] unsalted hazelnuts, almonds, or other nut that you like [skin on is OK]
1 teaspoon salt
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter, unsalted, soft
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

  1. Line a large sheet pan [I prefer an 11×17 inch pan so that the brittle isn’t too thick and difficult to bite into.  The orginal recipe recommends a 10×15-inch sheet pan.] with parchment paper [making sure the parchment paper goes up the sides of the pan], or you can lightly oil it [I prefer using parchment because it makes for super easy clean up and it doesn’t add any extra flavors and grease like oil can].
  2. Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula.  Cover and boil for 4 minutes. [This helps melt the sugar crystals that may be clinging to the side of the pan]
  3. Remove the cover, insert a thermometer, and cook without stirring to 240°F. [It should be a very light brown color.  You’ll have to experiment a little with this, as the brittle is more flavorful as it darkens, but you also run the risk of the brittle burning if you brown it too much.]
  4. Add the nuts, and cook while stirring to 320°F [make sure to stir often to ensure the nuts do not burn], or until the batch is light brown [My batch started to brown around 310°F, so make sure to keep an eye on it.  Also, the brittle will darken up when you add the remaining ingredients, so it’s OK if it starts out very lightly browned.].
  5. Remove the pan from heat, and quickly mix in the salt, butter, vanilla, and baking soda thoroughly.  Be careful as the ingredients will bubble up as you add them.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to the edges using an offset spatula. [The texture may seem a little puffy and difficult to spread, but it will settle down it cools.  Just try to make the top as even as possible.  Also, try to keep the brittle from going too far up the  sides of the parchment paper.]
  7. Allow the brittle to cool to room temperature.  Break into the desired pieces. [Depending on what size pan you use and how thick the brittle is, you can use different methods to break the brittle into pieces.  When the brittle is thick, I use a meat tenderizer to break up the brittle.  But that also creates a lot of “wasted” tiny pieces of brittle, which can be used for ice cream topping or sprinkling over other desserts.  I prefer to break the brittle up with my hands as I can control the size better, which is why I use an 11 x 17 inch pan as the brittle is just the right thickness for me.]

[Notes: The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.

Since this recipe is so versatile, feel free to experiment with different nut combinations. I like pairing almonds with pecans since they have different textures.  I’ve also experimented with adding 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (I add it during Step 5 of the cooking process)  which adds a slight but noticeable cinnamon flavor, and walnuts are a good nut to companion for cinnamon.]

 

 

 

Chocolate Covered Crispy Butterscotch Caramels

Take a chewy, rich butterscotch caramel, mix in some Rice Krispies cereal for a bit of crunch, slather on a thick, smooth, dark chocolate ganache, sprinkle a little sea salt on top, and voila, you’ve just been introduced to the perfect little candy, Chocolate Covered Crispy Butterscotch Caramels.  The trickiest parts of this recipe are 1) making sure the caramel gets to the correct temperature (a bit of patience and vigilant attention are needed) and 2) waiting a few hours for the chocolate ganache to firm up so that you can cut the caramels into squares.  So, if you have a bit of patience and a candy thermometer, get to it!  You won’t be disappointed.

The Maldon sea salt I used created little crater-like designs on the chocolate ganache.  And the crater-like surface of the caramel is due to the rice krispies.

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Chocolate Covered Crispy Butterscotch Caramels

Makes 48 pieces
(from Abigail Johnson Dodge’s Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets)
My notes are in [   ] below.

Ingredients

Caramel-Puffed Rice Layer

12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces + 2 tablespoons, softened, for greasing the foil
1 1⁄3 cups (9 1/4 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup [light corn syrup also works]
1 1⁄2 cups puffed rice cereal [rice krispies]
1 1⁄2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt

Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped [I like to used Trader Joes dark chocolate bar]
1 tablespoon vegetable oil [I used canola oil.]

Directions

Make the Caramel-Puffed Rice Layer

  1. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan (the straight-sided kind) with foil, leaving about a 1-inch overhang on two sides. Generously grease the bottom and sides of the foil with the 2 tablespoons of softened butter (cooking spray works, too).  [I prefer to line the pan with parchment which works equally as well as foil, and parchment doesn’t need to be buttered.  Just make sure you use enough parchment so that it overhangs two sides by an inch or so.]  
  2. Put the remaining butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, and golden syrup in a large heavy saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over low heat until the butter is melted, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 250°F, about 5 minutes.  [It took longer than 5 minutes for my caramel to reach 250°F, so keep a close eye on the caramel during this step.]
  3. Slide the pan from the heat and add the puffed rice, vanilla, and salt. Be careful—the mixture will bubble up, and the steam is super hot. Using a heatproof spatula, stir, without scraping the bottom and sides, until blended.
  4. Pour the crispy caramel, without scraping the bottom or sides of the saucepan, into the prepared baking pan. Set aside to cool until warm to the touch, about 45 minutes.

Make the Ganache

  1. Melt the chocolate and oil in a small heatproof bowl (you can use the microwave or an improvised double boiler).  [I used the microwave and melted the chocolate in 20-30 second increments to ensure that the chocolate would not burn.]
  2. Whisk until well blended and smooth.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate over the still-warm caramel. Using an offset spatula, spread the ganache evenly.
  4. Set aside to cool completely, about 4 hours. [It took longer than 4 hours for my ganache layer to cool and firm up enough to cut cleanly.  You can refrigerate the caramels to harden the chocolate more quickly, but don’t cut the caramels when they’re cold because the chocolate will crack and separate from the caramel layer.]

Finish the Caramel

  1. Use the foil [or parchment] “handles” to lift the entire caramel from the pan. Carefully peel or tear away the foil [or parchment] and discard; set the caramel, chocolate side up, on a cutting board.
  2. Grease the blade of a long, sharp knife with butter or cooking spray and, using a ruler as a guide (or by eye), cut crosswise into 8 equal strips and then cut each strip into 6 pieces.
  3. Serve immediately or wrap in small pieces of waxed paper or cellophane (2 3⁄4-inch squares are the perfect size). Serve in mini cupcake wrappers, if you like.  [I prefer to serve my caramels in mini cupcake wrappers.]  

Note: The caramels can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one month.

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars (aka Homemade Twix)

I had extra special visitors in town earlier this year, so of course we had to bake something ridiculously sweet and addictively delicious.  My dear visitors share my love of Twix candy bars, so we made a homemade version with buttery, tender shortbread, a chewy, thick layer of caramel, and a smooth, dark chocolate ganache.  Even though there are three separate components to this recipe, each is quick and easy to make (the caramel is is made from Kraft caramel squares).

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Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

Makes One 9″ x 13″ pan
(from King Arthur Flour)
My notes are in [ ] below.

Ingredients

Shortbread Layer

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) All-Purpose Flour

Caramel Layer

2 cups (20 ounces) caramel, cut into small chunks [I used Kraft caramel squares]
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Chocolate Layer

3 cups (18 ounces) chopped milk chocolate or dark chocolate, melted [I used chopped Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate bars]
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (optional)

Directions

Shortbread Crust

  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan lightly with cooking spray, or line with parchment, and set aside. [I prefer lining with parchment paper.]
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour. At first the mixture may seem dry, but will come together as you continue to beat at medium speed.
    Take the dough (it will be somewhat stiff) and press it evenly into the pan. Lightly flouring your fingertips will help with any sticking.
  3. Prick the crust all over with a fork. The holes will allow steam to escape and the crust will bake evenly with fewer bubbles.
  4. Bake the crust until it’s lightly golden brown on top and the edges are deeper golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.

Caramel

  1. Melt the caramel and cream over low heat in a small saucepan [or with short pulses of heat (20-30 second increments) in the microwave].
  2. Pour the caramel over the cooled crust and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill and firm up.

Chocolate Layer

  1. Melt the milk or dark chocolate [I prefer dark chocolate] slowly in a double boiler or over very low heat.
  2. If it seems very thick, add a tablespoon of shortening to thin it. [I used shortening and find that it makes the chocolate easier to work with.]
  3. Pour evenly over the chilled caramel layer and spread to cover all of the caramel.
  4. Return to the fridge until the chocolate is well set.
  5. Cut into 2″ x 2″ squares to serve. [Don’t cut the bars directly out of the fridge as it will be difficult to cut because it’s so cold and the layers may separate.  Wait until the chocolate softens a little and then cut into bars.]

Note:  It’s best to store these bars in the refrigerator.  These bars can also be cut and dipped in milk chocolate to resemble Twix bars. After the caramel layer has chilled firm, cut down the length of the pan, splitting the bars into two long, narrow bars. Then cut each long strip into “fingers”. Dip the chilled bars into melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to set for several hours.

Vanilla Marshmallows

Ahhh, mes amis, it has finally happened.  I’ve been afflicted with a baking malaise where the thought of baking the usual cookie, cake, or brownie has become total ennui to me.  So while I wait for baking inspiration to strike again, I am passing the time making things I typically deem to be too complicated to make from scratch.  Thus, I present to you homemade Vanilla Marshmallows which are like soft, fluffy clouds.  In the process of making them I’ve learned that 1) yes, it is possible to make marshmallows at home, 2) using gelatin does not require any fancy skills, and 3) marshmallows can have actual taste and flavor (other than sugar).   Vanilla Marshmallows- FC1

Vanilla Marshmallows

(from Fine Cooking)
Makes about 95 one-inch marshmallows

Ingredients

3 ounces (3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1-1/8 ounces (1/4 cup) cornstarch (see note)
Cooking spray
4  0.25 ounce packets unflavored powdered gelatin (1 small box)
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract, or 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste (use high quality vanilla as it really shines through in the marshmallows)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch into a medium bowl.
  2. Generously coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan (preferably one with straight sides) with cooking spray. Dust it well with about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture, tapping any excess back into the bowl; set aside.
  3. Put 3/4 cup cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and stir until lump-free. Set aside to hydrate, at least 5 minutes.
  4. Put 1/2 cup cold water, the granulated sugar, and corn syrup in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the pan; add the pod, too.
  5. Stir with a heatproof spatula just to combine (try not to get any sugar on the sides of the pan), then bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
  6. When the syrup reaches 240°F, begin beating the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the speed down to low.
  7. At this point, the syrup should be 250°F. If so, remove the vanilla pod, increase the speed on the mixer to medium low, and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl. (If not, turn the mixer off until the syrup reaches temperature and turn it on before adding the syrup.)
  8. With the mixer running, break the hydrated gelatin into several pieces and add it to the bowl one piece at a time, beating until incorporated.
  9. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the marshmallow is white, thick, and almost tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  10. If using vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, add it now, beating until just combined.
  11. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan, smoothing it into the corners with an offset metal spatula.
  12. Sift about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture evenly over the top.
  13. Let set at room temperature for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
  14. Run the tip of a paring knife around the edge of the baking pan to loosen the marshmallow, and invert the pan onto a large, parchment-lined cutting board. Lift a corner of the pan and carefully free the corner of the marshmallow with your fingers, after which it will fall onto the board. Generously coat a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray and cut the marshmallow into 1-inch pieces, respraying the knife as needed.
  15. Gently toss each marshmallow in the remaining confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat, shaking off the excess.

Note: Store the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Apple Cider Caramels

It’s fall, and everyone seems to be losing their minds over pumpkin spice.  But in my little corner of sweets, I’m all about the apples, and nothing captures the apple spirit better than these Apple Cider Caramels.  They’re a cross between a caramel apple and an apple pie.  Boiled cider makes these caramels extra apple-y and is worth the investment.  Note, in the past I’ve tried boiling down some apple cider to make boiled cider, but it turned into a big gooey, sticky mess, so now I just stick with purchasing my boiled cider.

Apple Cider Caramels - KAF 1

Apple Cider Caramels

(from King Arthur Flour)
Makes about 64 caramels
My comments are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

2 cups (1 pint, 16 ounces) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, unsalted
1/2 cup (6 ounces) boiled cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice

Directions

  1. Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on opposite sides.  [I prefer to use a 9″x13″ quarter sheet pan.]
  2. Combine the cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and boiled cider in a heavy-bottom, deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to medium-high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 248°F on a candy thermometer, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your particular stove.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the salt and spice.
  4. Pour the hot mixture into the prepared pan. Let it stand for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature before cutting into 1″ squares. [I refrigerate the caramels to speed up the firming process.  Then I let the caramels stand at room temperature for a few minutes before cutting into squares.]
  5. To wrap the caramels, use 6″ squares of parchment paper. Place one caramel in the center of each square; wrap the opposite edges of the paper around the caramel and twist the exposed edges to close. [I prefer cellophane wrappers from Caramel Wrappers.]