Monday, October 29, 2012

This year's corn free candy corn - a more reliable method

I mentioned in previous candy corn posts that it normally took me a couple tries each year to get the candy corn to come out right.  Just dealing with temperature and properly measuring the powdered sugar really affects the outcome.  Well, I recently checked out Sugar Baby: Confections, Candies, Cakes & Other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar from the library.

I may need to own a copy now.  The thing that makes this recipe so much more reliable than my previous favorite is that it uses weights.  Doesn't matter if you sift the sugar before measuring or if you spoon too softly or firmly.  This one worked the first time.  And I love mixing it in the stand mixer - so much easier, and cooler!  Nothing like hot sugar syrup to blister your fingers...  My notes on how I made this corn free:  The recipe does not call for any flavoring so I put a tablespoon of honey in the cup before I measured out the golden syrup.  If you are using a less refined sugar like the evaporated cane sugar I use, I recommend whirling it in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder to make it superfine.  Otherwise it will not all melt before your mixture reaches the final temperature - especially in a half batch.  I neglected to do that this time and had to add a teaspoon of water and baby it into melting without getting too hot.  And it still turned out!  I used the powdered goat milk again and it turned out beautifully; a nice chewy mellowcreme candy.  And I did make a half batch - we do NOT need 400 pieces of candy.  Remember that regular white sugar will give you brighter results and you are free to make the colors as bright as you wish.  (The glycerin is something I have on hand for homemade stain remover but it is food grade.  You can find it at Whole Foods and health food stores.  I believe you can safely leave it out of the recipe as well.)

Update: I prefer to add some vanilla extract rather than leave it just plain sugar flavored.

Homemade Candy Corn - made without corn syrup
Makes 400 pieces
from sugarbaby

350g 3½ cups confectioner's sugar
65g  ½ cup powdered milk
3g ½ tsp sea salt
300g 1½ cups granulated sugar
240 ml 1 cup golden syrup (I also used 1 tbsp honey)
115g ½ cup unsalted butter
5 ml 1 tsp glycerin
food coloring

Blend the powdered sugar, dry milk and salt in a food processor until quite fine and set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar, golden syrup, butter and glycerin in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  (You can add a tsp of water to facilitate this process without hurting the results.)

Turn down to just below medium and attach a candy thermometer.  Simmer without stirring until the temperature reaches 240ºF.  (There is some forgiveness here up to 245-7º but it will reach temperature very quickly especially for a partial batch so be careful.)

Turn off the heat and pour syrup into a stand mixer bowl.  Add the powdered sugar mix and turn on low with the paddle attachment until a smooth paste forms.  Scrape the sides down and let it cool.

Divide the dough evenly by thirds.  Color one yellow, one orange and leave the third plain.

The author of sugarbaby likes to form huge candy corns in a cast iron corn stick pan.  Well, the book is all about sugar.  That's a little excessive for us, so I make the little corn kernels.  For step by step forming instructions see my first post on mellowcreme candy corn.

Allow to dry for a few hours, flip and dry some more, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.  Keep in a cool, dry place.  (They will last longer than a week, FYI.)  ☺

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sesame Snaps

I grew up with Louck's sesame snaps as a super special - once in great while - only when we were at that special shop, treat.  I love that you can get them more easily nowadays.  I seriously am addicted to the new version with dark chocolate and I like the fact that they are produced in my own state.  Still, I wanted to see if I could make an easy version at home.  I tried a honey based recipe I saw and while the flavor was good, there was way too much honey and it turned into a hard candy that you had to suck on if you wanted to keep your teeth.  After much googling and perusing of techniques and recipes, I decided a Somali recipe produced something that fit the bill.  Something that would turn out light and very crunchy.  I do like a little bit of the honey flavor so I added some in for mine.  Sesame snaps are so super simple as far as ingredients.  At their most basic, sugar and sesame seeds.  The seeds are toasted for crunch and flavor.  I added a pinch of salt and a bit of honey for more flavor.  The trick to getting these to be really good and having that nice snap to them is to roll as thinly as possible.  Some of mine in the middle were a little tall and harder to bite (still crunchy) but the edges were wonderfully snappy.  Go for 1/8" thickness.  My youngest, who wouldn't touch the first batch with all that honey, has come back for thirds on these crispies.

Sesame Snaps
Makes 1 sheet full

2 cups sesame seeds
¾ cup evaporated cane sugar
1-2 tbsp honey
pinch sea salt

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.  Cook and stir the sesame seeds to toast, about 5 minutes.  

When they start to turn lightly golden, check a few for crunchiness.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.  They will make a neat crackling sound as they cool and should be nice and crunchy.

Return the pan to the heat and gradually melt the sugar without stirring.  Add it little by little as the previous layer melts.  You can tilt the pan to mix a bit.  Once the sugar is melted, add the salt and honey and stir to combine.  If there is any unmelted sugar, the honey may cause it to lump up a bit.  Just stir over the heat until it is all dissolved.

Stir in the toasted sesame seeds and mix for a minute until evenly combined.

Turn them out onto a lightly oiled surface.  Foil will work, I used parchment.  Cover with parchment paper and roll out as thin as possible.  Work quickly because the candy will harden and no longer be pliable.  Once it is at your desired thickness, and while still warm, cut/score the candy with a sharp knife.

They will break apart easily when cooled.  Store in an airtight container.  If you want to try the chocolate version, I just melted a couple tablespoons of mini chocolate chips with a pinch of coconut oil and drizzled on using a sandwich baggie as a piping bag.

If you want to watch a great how-to video, go here.  And enjoy the music!  ☺

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Instant Hot Cocoa Mix

It's a gorgeous fall day out.  Beautiful and chilly.  The calls for hot cocoa have started and Whole paycheck stopped carrying our favorite hot cocoa mix.  Probably best, as store bought is expensive and it was hard enough to find a mix with okay ingredients that didn't require heating up milk.  I like a cocoa mix that is just-add-hot-water.  I can make cocoa the other way, it's relatively easy, but I'm lazy and don't like to wash a pan too.  So I wanted to come up with my own version that did not use white or powdered sugar.  This whirls up quickly in a food processor and yields a nice fluffy mix for a rich cup of cocoa.  Vanilla bean powder is expensive, so it's okay to omit it or add a splash of vanilla to your mug if you don't already have or know where to get some.  I used a pouch of powdered goat milk since it was conveniently sized for my batch and the only available powdered whole milk.  (I can't stand powdered nonfat dairy.)  It does not have any off flavor to it and I will happily use it again.

Instant Hot Cocoa Mix
8 servings

4 oz dry whole milk powder (Enough to make 12 cups of milk/3 quarts)
¾ cup light brown muscovado sugar 
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa (or a mix of dark and Dutched)
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp vanilla bean powder (optional)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz until well combined.  It should appear light and fluffy with no large crystals apparent.  Store in an airtight glass jar for up to two months.

To make a cup of cocoa, add boiling water to a cup with about 4-5 heaping tablespoonfuls per mug.  A standard coffee mug holds 8-9 oz while a larger mug holds closer to 10-12 oz.  Add some marshmallows or whipped cream if desired.  My kids each have their own little 6oz mug and they love them, I use 3 heaping spoonfuls for those.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BBB - Russian Rose for World Bread Baking Day

Ahhhhh.  The rain has returned after a three month hiatus and my allergies have finally calmed down.  Now it is the perfect weather to be baking often again.  The BBB suggested a braided bread for World Bread Baking Day and invited buddies to join in.  This time I decided not to do my standard sweet interpretation.  Yes, we went garlicky with this beauty.  I think it's appropriate since garlic is sometimes known as the stinking rose.  ☺  Although since it is so pretty, I can definitely see myself making an almond/honey or cinnamon version for Thanksgiving breakfast.  I noted my changes to the recipe in red.  I did have an oh crud! moment as I was getting the dough mixed up, got all the butter incorporated and realized I had not added the yeast!  Ahh!  Run, grab yeast, dash it in, make sure it gets worked through well.  Whew!  Good thing I use instant yeast.  I also decided not to do all spelt this time since I really wanted the braid to work well.  I have some kamut now that I will experiment with in bread to cover the shortcomings of using all spelt.  They are both ancient grains but have complementary properties with regard to dough structure and elasticity.  For my filling I chose a bare spread of butter topped with a few tablespoons of pesto to which I had added half a head of fresh pressed garlic.  It smells SO awesome folks.  Sweet or savory, this is worth a try and really quite easy given how spectacular it looks.

Russian Rose
makes 1 loaf


300 grams bread flour KA all purpose flour
200 grams white whole wheat flour whole spelt flour
100 grams sprouted wheat flour
2-3 tablespoons golden flax seed meal
2.25 teaspoons dry yeast (Fresh Yeast 28g (1oz))
10 grams Sugar 10g (0.35oz) sucanat
10 grams Salt 10g (0.35oz)
50 grams Canola Oil 50cc (1.7 fl oz) 56 grams butter 96g butter, 10g garlic olive oil 
1 tablespoon White Vinegar apple cider vinegar
300 grams Water 300cc (10 fl oz) this is approximate

Original recipe called for
AP Flour 600g (21oz) total
seasoning was pesto, dusted with sumac

Filling - the options are only limited by your imagination and what's in your kitchen!
butter , softened
garlic, pressed
Parmesan, finely grated
salt , to taste
rosemary or basil


almond paste
sliced almonds
dried fruit


1. Set oven to 210c (410F) Prep: Baking Pan - 26cm (10") springform (no bottom), take a piece of parchment paper and crimp tightly around the bottom of the springform, oil the sides. Place on top of a baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl, add the water carefully as you start mixing. Use the dough hook 2-3 mins. on low speed and 2-3 mins. on medium speed. Dough should be supple and not sticky to the touch. Add water or flour if dough is too stiff or too loose (respectively). When dough is ready, spray a bowl with oil and gently put the dough in the bowl. Spray a little more oil on top and cover. Let rise (80%) about 40 minutes to an hour.

3. Lightly flour your work area. Flatten the dough gently with your hands.
Roll the dough as thin as you can using a floured rolling pin.
When rolling out the dough, try not to lift and move it too much. You can try and gently pull the dough to stretch it thin like with Strudel.

Apply a thin layer of your filling on top of the dough (leave the edge clear 1/4").

Slowly, tightly and very gently roll the dough into a roulade (pinwheel ). You will now have a very long roulade.

4. Take a sharp chef's knife (not a serrated knife) and cut (not saw) the roulade lengthwise trying to keep the knife in the middle so you end up with two equal parts (you can cut down from the seam but it is not make or break).

5. Place the two halves crossing each other (open roulade layers facing up) to create and X shape. Gently pick up the two ends of the bottom half, cross them over the top half, and place them back down. Continue this process, taking the two bottom ends and crossing them over the top until all the roulade has been used.

6. You now have a two strand rope shape. If for some reason some of the open roulade layers are pointing down or sideways, carefully turn them so they are facing up. Gently pinch the ends to seal. Look at the braid. If one end looks a little thinner make that your starting point. If not, just start from either end. Slowly and very gently, roll the braid sideways (horizontally) without lifting your hands from the table. You should keep those open roulade layers facing up. Pinch the end delicately. The end result should look like a giant snail shell or a very large cinnamon bun.

Depending on your filling you may want to sprinkle on something (paprika, sumac, brown sugar & cinnamon). Keep in mind you don't want to cover up the effect of the shaping.

7. Carefully pick up the braid and place in the prepared springform. Keep it flat on the parchment. The bottom of the braid should set nicely. 

Cover. Let rise until the braid hits three quarters the way up the springform. Depending upon the temp in your kitchen this may take from 20 to 40 minutes.

8. Bake at 210c (410F) for 5-10 mins.,
lower oven to 180c (355F) and bake for another 20-30 mins.

There should be a decent amount of oven spring. The bread should rise above the springform edge.
When the bread is out of the oven lightly brush olive oil or butter on top and sides.
Let cool on a rack.

9. You are welcome to bake this with all white flour or any combination of flour you like.

 This post will go up for Yeastspotting!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

It's always fun to try and re-create a childhood store bought cookie memory.  Even if you never actually got to have them at home.  Just about everyone is familiar with Mother's brand cookies.  I, like many kids, adored the pink and white circus animal cookies.  I think next in line was the iced molasses cookies.  Hubby loves oatmeal cookies much better so I settled on the iced oatmeal cookies.  This makes some dangerous dough.  Try not to eat half your cookies before they are baked.  I do love me some browned butter!  (Normally I don't specifically call for unsalted butter, but for browned butter it is better.)  I've already made these a number of times, they whip up pretty quickly and have gotten enthusiastic reviews from people who normally give a noncommittal response to baked goods.  Heck, they had my hubby digging in the freezer for the extras.  Something he's never done before!

If making cookies to freeze, you may want to freeze them un-iced, otherwise allow time for the icing to dry again as there will be some condensation on it when the cookies are thawing out.  It only takes a few minutes to dry though, if you even care!  ☺

Iced Oatmeal Cookies
makes 2 dozen large cookies

1 cup butter, unsalted
¾ cup evaporated cane sugar
½ cup light brown muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups light spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to  350º F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, brown the butter...  Melt the butter over medium low heat.  Once it is all melted, turn up the heat to just below medium.  Cook and stir occasionally until the butter starts to brown.  First there will be thick foam, then that will subside and just before it browns there will be piles of clear bubbles.  Watch it closely and stir to prevent burning, it happens fast!  You can watch the sides of the pan to see when the solids are starting to brown if you can't see the bottom through the bubbles.  Pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl or stand mixer and allow to cool slightly.

Mix in the sugars until there are no lumps.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until completely incorporated.

Blitz the oatmeal for a handful of pulses in a food processor or coffee grinder.  Don't turn it to flour, just a coarse meal, a little finer than quick oats.  Mix the oats into the batter.

Combine the flour, salt, soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl.  Add to the batter in about three additions, just to combine.  Let the dough rest for 15 minutes to thicken up.  You don't have to, it just makes it easier to scoop.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons at least 5 inches apart onto the lined sheets.  I use almost a double scoop of my one tbsp cookie scoop.  It's somewhere between a ping pong and golf ball sized scoop of dough.  Flatten the balls slightly and bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool on sheet for a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mix together the powdered sugar and milk until smooth.  Brush the icing on the tops of the cookies with a pastry brush, (a silicone one is ideal for this job).  If desired, a second layer may be added after the first is dry if you really want a thick white icing.  Those pictured are one layer.

 Let icing dry to a hard finish before storing in an airtight container.  Hide the container.

Adapted from the novice chef