Pistachio Dried Cherry Torrone ~ March Daring Bakers

Done 3

The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

It’s been a terribly long time since I’ve been able to join in any cooking or baking events. I’ve missed it.  I am so pleased to be able to join in BOTH Daring Kitchen challenges this month.

I have had this Martha Stewart Torrone recipe on deck for a LONG time and made my own changes to it, but felt the base recipe was easy enough for me to handle!

Done 2

And you-know-who is screaming WHY? And in the same breath WHERE’S MINE??

This was a bit fiddley. I was a bit hampered by not being in my own kitchen. I used a hand mixer that’s affixed to a bowl that turns, so it was a semi-stand mixer type piece of equipment … but not really.

It needs to sit and ‘dry’ a bit more, but man oh man, this is tasty stuff!

  • 2 pieces edible rice paper, (9 by 13 inches each) wafer paper
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 3 T light corn syrup
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C shelled salted pistachios, (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 1/3 C unsweetened finely shredded coconut, (about 4 ounces)
  • 3/4 C dried cherries

Place 1 piece of rice paper in a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet; set aside.

NOTE: I lightly buttered the sides of the baking dish. You’re going to trim them off anyway so it just makes removing the Torrone easier.

Put sugar, honey, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture just begins to simmer and sugar has dissolved, about 6 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer.

NOTE: Aside from the no stand mixer problem, I also suffered from a no CANDY THERMOMETER problem. 300 degrees is hard ball stage. Drop a tiny amount of the boiling sugar into a cup with cold water, when it becomes a hard, crunchy mass once in the water, you’re done.

Meanwhile, put egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Raise speed to high. Pour hot honey mixture into egg-white mixture in a slow, steady stream, and beat until mixture has cooled and thickened and begins to stick to whisk, about 10 minutes.

Ingredients

Reduce speed to medium-low; beat in vanilla, pistachios, coconut, and cranberries.

Working quickly, spread mixture into prepared dish. Place another sheet of rice paper on top; press down to flatten and spread evenly. Let cool on wire rack at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Ready to cut

Cut around edges of Torrone to loosen. Remove from baking sheet; transfer to a cutting board. Trim edges to be straight. Using a long, sharp knife, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch slices.

Caramel Popcorn

I try not to make this often. I cannot help myself when this is in the house. Every, single time I walk past the bag, I open it up and take a little bit.

This is simple to put together and really yummy. Great for snacking on, or – as I do – scarfing down as fast humanly possible.

Be careful while making the caramel not to have the flame too high or it will burn … learn that the hard way almost EVERY time!

  • 8 C popped corn (1 bag microwave popcorn. I use PopSecret Homestyle)
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 6 T butter
  • 3 T light corn syrup
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1 C dry roasted, unsalted peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Pop the corn and place on a large, rimmed baking sheet, stainless steel mixing bowl or baking dish, removing all the unpopped kernels. If you’re adding the peanuts, add them into the popcorn at this point.

Add the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup and salt in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, melting the butter and stirring to combine with a wooden spoon. keep stirring until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.

Once it boils, STOP stirring, set  timer for 5 minutes, letting the caramel boil, undisturbed.

After 5 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. It will bubble up.

Quickly pour over the popcorn (and peanuts, if using) and mix thoroughly.

Place the popcorn mixture in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and separate any large clumps, if you used a baking sheet. If you  used a bowl, pour the caramel corn onto a baking sheet to separate the popcorn.

Store in zip-lock bags, squeezing out as much air as possible. Will keep for up to 3 weeks – HA!

Rolo-Coasters ~ Guest Blogger ~ Hugs & Cookies

Hello everyone! I thought that every once in a while a guest blogger would be fun. Whether a blogging pal or a ‘Not Quite Ready for Blog Time Player’ friend.

My first guest blogger is Danielle from Hugs & Cookies. Danielle and I first became acquainted with each other through a mutual love of Ina Garten and the cooking forum Contessa’s Kitchen.

It wasn’t until I saw Danielle’s blog and her wonderful Facebook page that I realized what a talented baker she truly is. I have loved watching her baking talent progress year after year. Yes, a slight bit of jealousy – she can roll dough and she can decorate cookies with icing and I cannot – YET!

I have participated in her bake alongs – and you should too! – though not as often as I would like. Her baked goods are inspiring and her photos mouth watering.

Without much further ado – Danielle ~

*****************************************

What an honor to be a guest blogger!

I was tickled pink when Andrea asked me! I am a mommy of 2 wonderful boys and I am married to my Prince Charming.

My passion for baking probably began the day we returned from our honeymoon almost 9 years ago. I had so much fun planning a gourmet dinner and dessert … And so it began! It of course helps that my Dad is a caterer and my Mom is an awesome cook – it’s in my genes LOL!!!!

I began my blog Hugs and Cookies in 2006 and expanded it last year to a great Facebook page.  I host a bake along on my blog and Facebook page which has been very exciting!  Each week, I share a recipe that I have enjoyed and others are invited to bake it and share a picture of their creation!

I have formed some fabulous friendships through a mutual love of baking! Baking is a family affair in my house … my oldest son enjoys baking it with me and we all enjoy eating it!

I also have fun bringing the love of baking into my classroom. My students have so much fun, and we all know how educational baking is!

I hope you enjoy my recipe for Rolo-Coasters! Stop by and join us in our next bake along!

For the Cookie:

  • 2 sticks BUTTER
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (I have used Valrhona & Hershey’s-both great!!!)
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

You also need:

  • 1 bag of Rolos  – unwrapped

NOTE: Cut 45 of the Rolos in half and freeze while cookies are baking. (From this recipe I made 30 cookies. Each cookie uses 3 Rolo “pieces” so that would be a total of 45 Rolos cut in half.)

For the Drizzle:

  • 12 Kraft caramels
  • 2 T. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer with paddle, beat butter and sugar till fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add the cocoa powder and mix until combined. Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the bowl and mix on low speed just until combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula. Drop with an ice cream scoop (medium size) or by large Tablespoon. Bake 14 minutes.

NOTE: Check your cookies, the timings depends on the size.

Remove tray from oven, top with 3 pieces of frozen, chopped Rolos and return pan to the oven for 1 more minute. Let cool on cookie sheets.

If you are doing the caramel drizzle continue…..

Drizzle:
COMBINE 12 Kraft caramels with approx. 2 T heavy cream in microwave safe dish. Heat in 15 second increments and stir between. Stir until smooth and runny for a drizzle. Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel across the cookies. Let set on wax paper.

Fruit Jellies

I saw this recipe in the December 2009 Everyday Food and it called to me. It brought me back to being a child and having a package of Chuckles. Peeling back the wrapper. Giving my Mom or Dad the black one (yuck). Eating them in order of flavor from least to most favorite. Sharing them with my sister, taking half each. How wonderful to be able to create these little beauties on my own.

Nothing was going to deter me from making these – not even Ernie proclaiming…..why, why, why. (Note to self, must remember to listen to Ernie occasionally!) Now for flavor pairings… definitely cherry, the red Chuckles were my favorite. I wanted to try lemon and lime and orange, but the jelly end of those made that dream impossible. I settled for cherry, grape, peach and pear. For the price of these jellies, I could have bought the factory that makes Chuckles, banned the black ones and had a package delivered each and every hour.

The process was fun. Accomplishing the task was pride inducing. The end result – well, not so much. Far too sweet for me and a little cloying after the first flavor, so trying each was just not an option.

  • 1 1/3 cups fruit juice
  • 4 packets powdered gelatin
  • 2 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 C fruit preserves or jam

NOTE: I made, grape, cherry, peach and pear. I had read that folks had mixed flavors of juice and jams, but I went for straight flavors, cherry/cherry, grape/grape, etc. WIth the exception, perhaps, of the Welch’s, I used the best quality preserve and juice I could find.

Pour 2/3 cup of juice into a small bowl and sprinkle powdered gelatin over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes.

NOTE: I sprinkled the gelatin over the juice as the juice in the saucepan started to bubble. This way they both finished at the same time.

In a medium saucepan, pour in remaining 2/3 cup of juice and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add preserves and whisk until preserves are combined. Bring this mixture back to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes until think and syrupy. Add gelatin mixture and whisk until gelatin dissolves.

Pour through a fine mesh strainer into and 8×8 square baking dish.

NOTE: You really can pick any type of jam or preserve, this straining bit takes out any pieces of fruit.

Let cool. Refrigerate until set.

NOTE: I couldn’t figure out how to prevent all those air bubbles. The first had them just in the center, so I then tried moving the strainer as I poured, that just moved the bubbles all around! Not to worry though, the bubbles are covered by the sugar.

When ready to serve, cut jellies into 1″ squares. Place 1 cup of sugar in a pie plate and toss cut fruit jellies in sugar.

NOTE: I didn’t see the reason for this. So I experimented and sugared some and let them sit. They absorb the sugar AND start to melt. Totally not good!

The question is, would I do this again? Heck, no! Am I glad I at least tried? Heck, yeah! What’s life without curiosity on how things work and taste and succeed and fail? I had to try the jellies when I saw them, so I did. This chapter is closed.

Hey, they can’t all be fabulous, can they?

Peanut Brittle

I love making lots of different goodies for Christmas. I make gift baskets of goodies for friends each Christmas with 5 or 6 different goodies. I don’t usually stray much from my list. This year I decided to try a few new ones. Some were great and will take a place in the rotation – like this peanut brittle – and some were not worth the effort.

In the midst of preparing for Christmas and starting my goodie basket insanity, we had a family crisis and everything that revolved around Christmas was put on a back burner. A few things were still able to come out of the kitchen, but alas, not enough for baskets of anything. So to all my pals waiting for goodies, you understand why we’re setting our sights on next year!

This peanut brittle was surprisingly easy and really yummy. It came from the December ’09 issue of Everyday Food Magazine. Oh, staff of Everyday Food, you folks out did yourselves with this issue. Fantastic!

This was one pot and one cookie sheet and no oven. Really, it doesn’t get much easier than that!

  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C light corn syrup
  • 1/2 t coarse salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/2 baking soda
  • 3 C salted dry-roasted peanuts

Lina a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and lightly coast with cooking spray.

NOTE: I have a non-stick half-sheet pan. I skipped the parchment step (I have no idea why) and it was absolutely fine.

To a medium saucepan, add sugar corn syrup, salt, and 1 cup of water. Over a medium-high flame, bring to a rapid simmer and cook until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: I wonder if Lyle’s Golden Syrup would work here as well? Perhaps an experiment for next Christmas.

Remove from heat and stir in butter, baking soda and peanuts. Be careful the mixture will foam. Stir until mixture is no longer bubbling and caramel is smooth.

NOTE: This really froths up! Make sure you use a deep pot!

Transfer to a sheet and spread with a lightly greased spatula.

NOTE: QUICKLY!!! Quickly! This starts to become difficult to pour and manipulate very quickly! Spray a spatula with non-stick spray and quickly spread it out.

Let cool until firm, about 15 minutes. Break into pieces. Eat!

You can store the brittle at room temperature in an air-tight container for 3 weeks.

Homemade Almond Joys

Oh, Joy the Baker, you evil temptress! For those of you who have never read Joy the Baker’s blog, please do! It is absolutely delightful! The recipes are great, the photos exciting. One glance and you will be hooked on Joy as well.

A week or so ago, Joy made Almond Joy (apropos, don’t ya think?). I had been obsessing about making these little beauties since first glance. I love Almond Joy, Obsessively so. I knew this would be one of those make and distribute goodies. If not, they would be made, devoured and straight to my tush goodies!

I had a hard time finding the unsweetened coconut, but I finally found it at a health food store.

I have to say from the outset, I can already see Ernie reading this, shaking her head, wondering….’why?why?why?’ We’ll see if she still says that after she tastes them. Now, my Dad, on the other hand, looked at me when I handed hom a glassine envelope with Almond Joy nestled within, and frankly stated, “You know, they sell these in the store now.” Then bit into one and said, “Oh,no, they don’t sell THESE in a store.”  It’s all perspective.

Anyway, off to the races…

This recipe makes about 30 little bars. I had 29, but who’s splitting hairs.

  • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 30 almonds
  • about 20 ounces (a bag and a half) of good quality semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread raw almonds onto a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.  Stir in the unsweetened coconut.  The mixture is thick.  Place mixture in freezer for 3o minutes.  It’s easier to work with if it’s a little cold.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove the coconut mixture from freezer.  With clean hands shape one tablespoon of coconut into a little log about 2 inches long and 3/4-inch thick.  Press the logs together very well so they don’t crack when dipped.    Place the log on the lined baking sheet and continue until all of the coconut mixture is gone.  If your hands get sticky, rinse and go back at it. 

NOTE: I used a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to do this part, I pressed it against the side of the bowl so it was pretty well packed when I popped it out of the scoop. From there it was a little push here and a little smoosh there to make a log shape.

 Press an almond on top of each coconut log.  It won’t completely stick.  Don’t worry about that.  Place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill and set again while you melt the chocolate.

Place a medium  pot with two inches of water over a medium flame.  Bring the water to a simmer.  Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl over the simmering water.  Stir the chocolate as it melts.  Turn off the flame once the chocolate has melted, but keep the bowl of melted chocolate over the hot water so it stays loose.

Remove the coconut logs from the fridge.  The easiest way to get the chocolate onto the logs is dipping. This is a messy, tedious process, but persevere, it’s worth it. Put one of the logs on a fork, and using a spoon drizzle a bit of the chocolate over the almond.  This will make the almond stick to the log.  Next, lower fork into chocolate and spoon chocolate over candy to coat.  

Lift fork and shake (gently or the log will topple over into the chocolate as mine did MANY times) to release some of the chocolate.  Scrape the bottom of the fork along the side of the bowl and place the chocolate coated log back on the lined baking sheet.  I used a toothpick to help get the candy off the fork. Repeat until all candy is coated in chocolate.  If chocolate gets thick again, just turn on the flame and heat slightly.

Let dipped candy harden in the fridge for 45 minutes.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  If you have any left and need to layer the candy in a container, use waxed paper to separate the layers.

NOTE: This was definitely worth the time. It’s a long time standing and repetitive dipping, but fun to do just the same. And, yes, I can buy them in a store but not that taste like these! Thank you, Joy for bringing some Joy into my kitchen (cheesey, yes, but heartfelt).