Archive | November, 2011

Sweet Holiday Gift Idea: Hot Cocoa on a Stick

28 Nov

I’m already starting to think about holiday baked goods–after all, Christmas is only 27 days away! The holidays can sometimes seem overwhelming, but this is an easy, cute, and unique gift that you can make weeks in advance!

Hot Cocoa

Printable Recipe

1/2 cup heavy cream

14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate, chopped

25 lollipop sticks

Prepare an 8×8″ pan by spraying it lightly with cooking spray. Place the chocolate chips and chopped baker’s chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl.

Over medium-high heat, mix the heavy cream and the sweetened condensed milk together in a medium saucepan.

Bring a mixture to a simmer, whisking to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Once the liquid is simmering, pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a moment to warm the chocolate.

Stir the cream and the chocolate together, until the mixture is shiny and smooth. It will be quite thick.

Pour the chocolate into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Allow this to firm up overnight or 3-4 hours in the refrigerator.

Once the chocolate has set, use a large knife to cut the block into 1 1/2″ squares. For the smoothest cuts, rinse the knife with hot water and dry it between each cut. I set my chocolate in the freezer after I cut it to allow it to firm up a little more before popping them out of the pan.

Peppermint Marshmallows

This was my first attempt at making marshmallows–and I was completely unprepared for the stickiness! Make sure you have plenty of powdered sugar on hand to keep things from getting out of hand.

Adapted from The Nerd’s Wife

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup cold water

2 1/2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

red food coloring

Grease sides and bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with butter. Dust with powdered sugar really well.

Pour cold water into bowl of a mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over the water and let sit.

In a heavy saucepan, cook sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water over low heat. Stir constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and heat the syrup to boiling. Boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 240° on a candy thermometer. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes–be patient!

Remove from heat and, with the mixer running on low, pour the hot syrup in a thin stream into the gelatin.  Gradually increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and beat until the mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume–about 8-1o minutes.

Add peppermint extract and beat to incorporate–about 15 seconds more on the mixer.

Remove from the mixer and add 4 drops of food coloring. Fold by hand 3-4 times to swirl color. Don’t mix too much or you’ll end up with pink marshmallows.

Pour marshmallows into prepared pan. Drop food coloring randomly on the surface of the marshmallows and drag the color through the mixture with a butter knife or toothpick. Again, don’t mix too much! Let the marshmallows sit, uncovered, for at least 4 hours.

After the marshmallows have set, sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar. Place 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a bowl or shallow dish. Loosen the marshmallows in the pan by running a knife around the edges and gently transfer them, all in one piece, to the prepared work area. (That step sounds easier than it is; I would suggest using a large spatula dusted in powdered sugar to assist, and if you can find them, maybe even an extra pair of hands. Thanks, Mom!) The marshmallows will be extremely sticky–immediately dust the exposed sides and top with powdered sugar to prevent any grief while you’re working.

Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cut marshmallows into 1 1/2″ squares. Dust all sides of the marshmallow by dipping them in the bowl of powdered sugar.

To assemble, skewer a marshmallow and a piece of cocoa fudge on a lollipop stick. I would suggest putting the marshmallow on first, followed by the fudge underneath it, otherwise the marshmallow will leave the stick all gooey.

Wrap in a cellophane treat bag and tie with a holiday ribbon.

If you are making these in advance, you can store the fudge up to a month in an airtight container in the freezer (one week at room temperature) and the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 weeks.

To enjoy the hot cocoa: Remove marshmallow from stick. Heat a mug of milk (not water!) and submerge chocolate block. Allow it to soften for a moment and stir vigorously to dissolve. Top with the marshmallow and enjoy!

Snowy Day Step-By-Step Croissants

23 Nov

Six inches of snow fell last night and school was cancelled this morning. While deciding how to start off my long holiday weekend, my sister came across some fig goat cheese which sounded too good to pass up. Croissants are a baking project best suited to those days where you don’t have much else going on (or the weather has decided you should abandon what plans you had), so I decided to whip some up to enjoy with our cheese tomorrow morning. This was my first attempt at croissants, and I must admit that I was a little intimidated before I started. Don’t be intimidated–they’re not tricky, they just have a lot of steps! After seeing (and tasting!) the finished product I have to say the amount of work was definitely worth it. They are crispy and flaky on the outside but the inside stays soft and buttery. These are a good special-occasion treat–go ahead, impress your family and friends!

Croissants

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Printable Recipe

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

Mix  water, one cup of flour, and yeast together until the any lumps in the flour are gone. Cover and let rise for about an hour.

Add the remaining flour, cream, and salt to the risen mixture and knead for about a minute. Cover and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Knead the rested dough by hand for about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, place the butter between two sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to pound it into a 7″ square.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly-floured work surface. Roll the dough out into an 11″ square, making sure the dough isn’t sticking as you roll. Place the butter square diagonally in the center of the dough.

Fold the four corners of the dough over the butter square. Pull the edges and pinch to seal the seams.

Very carefully, roll the dough out into a 14″ square. Start in the center and move toward the edges, tapping the dough with the rolling pin until the butter begins to soften. Flour your work surface and rolling pin to make sure the dough isn’t sticking.

Once your dough has reached the right dimensions, fold it into thirds, like you would a letter. In croissant terms, this is called a “turn” of the dough.

Complete the second turn of the dough by folding it in thirds again in the opposite direction.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for two hours.

Roll the dough out again into a 14″ square and complete two turns again. (Fold the dough in thirds length-wise and then again width-wise.) Wrap in plastic again and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll out the dough a third time and complete two more turns of the dough. At this point, the dough is ready to cut and shape.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough half and, on a lightly floured surface, roll each half out into a 6 1/2″ x 15″ rectangle. Transfer each rectangle to a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, just until the dough is firm.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut the dough in to triangles with bases roughly 3″ wide.

Make a slit in the center bottom of each triangle. Start rolling the base toward the point of the triangle, one hand on either side of the slit you just cut. Move your hands away from each other, starting to make the classic croissant shape.

Place the rolled-up croissants on your parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let them rest overnight in the refrigerator to let the flavor of the dough develop.

After the dough has rested, preheat the oven to 375°. While the oven is heating, beat one egg with about a tablespoon of heavy cream and brush the mixture on the croissants. Bake for about 35 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown.  Remove the croissants from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Happy breakfast!