Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Texas Fudge

Fudge, real chocolate fudge, seems to be one of those confections that delights in defying me.  I think I rebatched my fudge at least four or five times last year.  It was happily eaten but I was never really satisfied with it.  So this year, in the interest of my sanity, I spent an entire day digging through old magazines for that one fantasy type fudge recipe that always turned out great results (Christmas 1999 to tell you how long I've kept this one).  And, BONUS, I found an old favorite appetizer recipe in the same issue that I had completely forgotten about.  I'll share that one later.  Normally, I like my fudge without nuts, but this one I have always added the pecans.  It goes well, but you certainly don't have to use the nuts.  If you want to avoid the corn syrup in commercial marshmallow fluff, you can whip up a half batch in about half an hour or less.  That will give a little less than two jars worth and make for some darn fine corn free fudge.  ☺

Texas Fudge
makes 36 pieces

1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
2½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
¼ tsp salt (use ~1/8 tsp if using salted butter)
1 pkg (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup finely chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp bourbon

Line a 9" square pan with foil and butter it lightly.

Combine the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring to combine.  Cook at a rolling boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  (If you have a candy thermometer, we are aiming for 234-235ºF or soft ball stage.)

Add marshmallow cream and chocolate to butter mixture and blend until smooth.  Stir in pecans, vanilla and bourbon.  Pour into prepared pan and cool to room temperature.  You can score the fudge with a sharp knife now if you want.  Refrigerate until firm.

Lift the fudge and foil from the pan and peel foil from sides.  Cut through score lines or let warm up for a few minutes and cut into small pieces.  Store in refrigerator for long term.

Adapted from Holiday Cakes & Cookies by Family Circle 1999/2000

I understand you can do a white chocolate variation of this simply by subbing white chocolate in, but I think it would be tooth achingly sweet.  I would probably either try cutting back the sugar, or do a marbleized swirl version instead.

Monday, December 26, 2011

BBB - Stollen

I've never made a stollen before.  And like many people unfamiliar with the actual baked good, I had assumed it was a dry crumbly yeast rendition of a fruitcake.  Well let me tell you, no bread with this amount of butter and other enrichments could ever turn out dry unless you doubled the flour and baked it black.  My pastry cloth was practically transparent with butter oil by the time I was done rolling and shaping.  Not that butter is a bad thing...  ☺  I'd say this über rich pseudo-pastry is like a cross between a danish, a fruitcake and a croissant.  I did add the almond filling that is often seen in stollen, even though it was not in the original challenge recipe.  (Congratulations by the way to Susan of Wild Yeast, the host kitchen, on her marriage this month!)  I think maybe next time I won't need to add the filling, this was so rich and delicious anyway.  And easier to make wonderful toast out of it without the filling oozing out as it warms...  Mmmmmm.  We'll see.  If you want to try it out, here is the recipe as presented for the Buddy challenge.

Yield: 1500 grams (3 loaves, more or less)
  • Candy and dry citrus peel: 12 hours or more (can be done ahead)
  • Soak the fruits: 12 hours
  • Mix and ferment sponge: 12 hours (can be simultaneous with fruit-soaking)
  • Mix dough: 20 – 30 minutes
  • First fermentation : 30 minutes
  • Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
  • Proof: 90 minutes
  • Bake: 30 minutes
Sponge Ingredients:
  • 120 grams flour
  • 80 grams water
  • 0.1 gram (small pinch) Instant Yeast
     [or 0.13 g active dry, or 0.25 g fresh]
Soaked Fruit Ingredients:
  • 130 grams raisins
  • 75 grams dried cherries (or more raisins, or chopped dried apricots, or a combination)
  • 61 grams candied orange peel
  • 92 grams candied lemon peel
  • 82 grams slivered almonds
  • 34 grams rum
Final Dough Ingredients:
  • 348 g flour
  • 53 g milk
  • 25.3 grams (2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) instant yeast [or 18.6 g osmotolerant, or 31.6 g active dry, or 63.3 g fresh]
  • 8 g (1-1/3 t.) salt
  • 8 g (2-1/3 t.) diastatic malt powder (omit if you don’t have it)
  • 51 g sugar
  • 50 g egg (about one large egg)
  • 5 g grated lemon zest (one average lemon)
  • 5 g grated orange zest (one small orange)
  • 1/3 t. of each of these ground spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice, nutmeg
  • 273 g unsalted butter, at room temperature (should be pliable)
  • all of the sponge
  • all of the soaked fruits
Finishing Ingredients:
  • clarified butter
  • fine granulated sugar
  • powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  1. Toss the soaker fruits with the rum in a medium bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the sponge ingredients in another medium bowl. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker. Mix in slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Continue mixing in medium speed until the gluten reaches full development. The dough should come together around the hook and should no longer stick to the sides and bottom of the bowl. This could take about 25 minutes or more, but will depend on your mixer.
  5. Add the soaked fruits and mix on slow speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered container. Cover and ferment for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  7. Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into three pieces, or however many you would like. Preshape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  8. To shape each loaf: Form a blunt-ended batard and dust it lightly with flour. With a thin rolling pin, press down firmly, separating the dough into two parts with one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the flap of dough connecting the sections so it is about 2 inches wide. Flatten the larger section slightly with your hand, then fold the smaller section over to rest on the larger one.
  9. Place the loaves on parchment-lined baking sheets (two per sheet) and slip them into a large plastic bag with a bowl of warm water. Proof for about 90 minutes, replenishing the water when it cools.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 on convection setting or 400 on regular bake setting. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape, and bake for another 20 minutes. If you do not have convection, you may need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning and keep the one on the lower rack from burning on the bottom.
  12. While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter. Dredge them in fine granulated sugar, brushing or shaking off the excess.
  13. To finish, sift powdered sugar over the loaves.
  14. Cut when completely cool. You can leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry and the sugar crust up a bit.
This post will go up for Yeastspotting!

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    Candied Citrus Peel

    Not many recipes call for things like candied orange and lemon peel until you get to a holiday season.  Or you live on a different continent.  I have never seen candied peels in any of our grocery stores.  Now I haven't really looked hard, but a friend from England tells me they are readily available there for things like Christmas puddings and such.  I happen to need them for a German Stollen.  Fortunately these little dainties are fairly easy to make at home.  And by doing it that way, I save money and can be assured that the organic fruits I choose are not saturated with pesticide residue.  After seeing how well they turned out, I may need to make some specifically to dip in chocolate.  Yum!  I am borrowing this method from Wild Yeast.  I simmered mine just a bit longer, but otherwise, it is exactly her directions.  I recommend the organic citrus because of the pesticide load on conventionally raised citrus.  Bagged organic lemons are relatively inexpensive, as are the oranges when you can find them pre-bagged.

    Make these the day before you need them.

    Candied Citrus Peels
    makes about 350g (~12 oz) candied peel and 2½ cups syrup

    10 medium organic lemons (I used 12 small lemons and 3 large navel oranges in separate batches.  Next time I would use 4.  Good stuff.)
    water for blanching
    3 cups sugar
    2 cups water

    1. Score the fruit in quarters.  Peel, leaving the fruit whole.

    (I'll be making lemon curd with these later!)

    2. In a large saucepan, cover the peels with cold water. Bring to a boil, drain, and rinse the peels in cold water.

    3. Cut the peels into strips (about four strips per quarter-lemon section).

    4. Blanch the peel strips twice more.

    5. In the large saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

    Here are my oranges on their final sugar simmer, and the lemons on their first blanch.

    6. Add the lemon peels (make sure you lower them into the syrup; if you drop them in and the hot syrup splashes on your skin, you will be very sad). Reduce the heat and simmer until the peels are starting to become translucent, about an hour. 

    7. Drain the peels, reserving the syrup.

    8. Place the peels in a single layer on a wire rack and allow to dry overnight.

    9. Store in an airtight container, or in the freezer. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

    Now I need to find a use for these two awesome jars of citrus infused syrup...

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    That Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake - From Scratch

    I've had my eye on this recipe since July.  It looked so rich and decadent.  But it was one of those "cool" desserts that uses all mixes and premade ingredients.  Well, those are on the naughty list in this house.  (That would be allergy unfriendly.)  So I've been intending on "scratchifying" the thing for months now.  If you like the idea of the easy recipe, you can find it here.  I believe it was originally a Taste of Home recipe submission.  I will never make it that way.  I have sworn off Cool whip, much as I used to like it, because of the soybean oil and hydrogenated fats.  Besides, this scratch version is ridiculously rich and satisfying.  (Read: better.)  I had one tiny forkful to satisfy myself that it turned out as I had hoped.  Now I'm hiding it until I can send it to work!  It's like a Butterfinger blizzard on top of a chocolate tres leche cake.  Rich.  Sweet.  Decadent.  I also cut it down to a half batch of one 9x9" pan.  Firstly, because that's how much cake my favorite recipe made; secondly, who needs that much temptation calling from the icebox?  It can always be doubled back up to the 9x13" pan to serve a crowd.  If you want to try the scratch version, here is how I did it.  (My favorite chocolate cupcake recipe served perfectly and comes together with a whisk almost as quickly as a boxed mix.)

    (Best served the day it's made, or reserve the topping until ready to serve - otherwise you lose that nice crunch.)

    Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake (Scratch version)
    makes a 9x9" cake

    One chocolate cake to fit 9" square pan (I used this recipe)
    ½ can (7 oz) sweetened condensed milk (freeze the rest for another time)
    ¼ cup caramel ice cream topping (I used this recipe or you can purchase)
    5 fun size Butterfinger candy bars, crushed

    1 cup heavy whipping cream
    ¼ cup sifted powdered sugar
    3 tsp cold water
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp unflavored gelatin

    Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour a 9" square baking pan.  Prepare cake batter as directed and pour into pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.  Cool on a rack.

    Combine caramel sauce and condensed milk in a small bowl.  Poke holes about every two inches all over the cooled cake.  Pour the caramel mixture over the cake.  Sprinkle with two thirds of the crushed candy bars.  

    If you intend to serve the cake right away, you can just use sweetened whipped cream.  I used stabilized whipped cream to prevent breaking down and weeping.  (The cream, not me.)  ☺  To make stabilized whipped cream:

    In a small pan combine gelatin, cold water and vanilla; let stand until bloomed (thick).  Place over low heat, stirring constantly, just until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat and cool but do not allow it to set.  In a medium bowl, whip the cream and powdered sugar until slightly thickened.  While beating on low speed, gradually add in the gelatin mixture.  Whip at high speed until stiff.

    Spread the whipped cream evenly over the cake.  Sprinkle with the remaining crushed candy bars.

    Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.  Cut smaller pieces, this is sinfully rich but ever so satisfying.  ☺


    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Crockpot Tapioca Pudding

    Pudding is a pretty simple but satisfying treat.  We never had homemade pudding growing up and those premade cups were a few and far between occurrence.  We did the cook and serve and/or instant box stuff.  Probably because making pudding does take a little bit of time, and standing over the stove was not on the top of the list.  I do remember that tapioca was an especial treat because it was the most rarely seen in our house.  (And I think I had to wrestle my dad for it.)  So I was very happy to find a version that required little supervision and could be accomplished while I got things done around the house.  Like that pile of laundry that's been sitting by the kitchen table for two days now.  This makes a lovely rich, thick and filling pudding.  I must admit, I do love my tapioca warm and it is just as fabulous and thick before chilling.
    Update: for those wanting to use honey as a healthier option instead of sugar, be aware that honey is sweeter than sugar and so you only need 75% as much.  That's a nice bonus!  The amount of honey for equivalent sweetness is ½ cup plus 1 tbsp.  Enjoy!

    Crockpot Tapioca Pudding
    makes 8 ½-cup servings

    1 Qt whole milk
    ¾ cup sugar (you can scant this when measuring if desired)
     ½ cup small pearl tapioca (not the quick cooking stuff)

    2 eggs (farm pastured for great nutrition)
    ½ tsp vanilla
    pinch sea salt

    Stir together the milk, sugar and tapioca in a crock pot.  Cover and cook on high for about 1½-2 hours.  Stir occasionally as you walk through the kitchen.  Do watch to make sure it doesn't get to boiling though or you may have a mess to clean up.  It will depend on the cooker in use.  (Fortunately caught mine right before it boiled over the sides.)  The tapioca will get soft and start to thicken. 

    In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt.  Temper the eggs by slowly whisking in ½ cup of the tapioca mixture.  Do that twice more with two more half cupfuls.  Then whisk the egg mixture into the tapioca until well combined.  Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes longer until the pudding is nice and thick.  (It may not take that long, mine was practically ready as soon as I whisked in the eggs because my tapioca had boiled, but in that case you have to be careful not to scramble the eggs!)  Portion into single serving containers and chill in the fridge.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap to avoid a skin.

    Enjoy cold or warm, plain or with whipped cream!

    Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Quick and easy harvest granola bars

    I have another favorite granola bar recipe, nice and chewy with cranberries or whatever I decide at the time.  They're great granola bars and I do still love them.  But I think they may have been eclipsed on the basis of speed alone.  These nifty little bars come together in practically no time at all.  And they have the added benefit of being gluten free if you are careful to choose the GF certified oatmeal.  They got huge thumbs up from R and thumbs up from two school friends and their mom who happened to be available for testing at after school pickup.  And since the mom said she didn't normally like granola bars much, her surprised look of approval was gratifying.  ☺  I have orders to include these in the backpack for snack time at school.  I will happily do so as there is not a single store bought granola bar I have found that is completely okay for R to have.  I'll bet daddy will love these too.  One tip about the "glue" that holds them together.  The longer you cook it, the firmer the bars will end up being.  So you can tailor that to your liking.  I left mine on low while I was measuring out some of the dry ingredients so mine are pretty firm and chewy.  They will mellow by tomorrow, but if you want them softer, cook for less time.  You can also store them in the fridge to make them more firm, or in a jar on the counter to be a little softer.  (Oh, fair warning, Sunsweet brand adds high fructose corn syrup to all its dried fruits - BOO, HISS.  Phooey on them.  Get a different brand like Mariani (regular corn syrup) or even better - something like Kirkland brand (regular sugar).)

    Harvest Berry Granola Bars
    makes an 8x8 pan full

    1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
    ¼ cup raw or sprouted (crispy) pumpkin seeds
    ¼ cup raw or crispy sunflower seeds
    1 tbsp golden flaxseed meal
    1 tbsp sesame seeds
    1 cup unsweetened puffed millet cereal
    ½ cup dried cranberries
    ½ cup dried blueberries
    ¼ cup creamy style almond butter
    ¼ cup honey
    ¼ cup muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
    ¾ tsp vanilla
    ¼ tsp sea salt

    Lightly oil an 8" baking dish and preheat oven to 350ºF.

    Spread oats, pumpkin seeds (if raw), sunflower seeds (if raw), and sesame seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes.  (If your pumpkin and sunflower seeds are already soaked and dried or "sprouted", you don't have to toast them and will retain more nutrition if you don't.)  Combine the toasted mixture with the seeds, dried berries and cereal in a bowl.

    Mix together the almond butter, honey, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan.  Heat over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is blended and slightly bubbly, about 2-5 minutes.  The more you cook it, the harder the finished bars will be.  (It's like making candy.)

     Pour all the dry ingredients into the saucepan and mix with a wooden spoon until evenly coated.  Scrape into the prepared pan and firmly press down with oiled hands.  Refrigerate until firm, 20-30 minutes.  Cut into bars and store.

    Adapted from In Praise of Leftovers