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    Entries in chocolaty goodness (28)

    Tuesday
    Dec092014

    Your Peppermint Patties

    Well, I'm sorry to say that Seeley lost her battle with math this week.  She hasn't had time to eat, let alone cook and blog about it.  Not to worry, though.  As long as she survives her exams, she'll be back next week.  In the meantime, I bring you Holiday Candy Making:  Mint Creams Edition. 

    Here's what you'll need:

    • 2 ½ cups sugar
    • ½ cup half & half
    • ½ cup water
    • 3 Tablespoons butter
    • 2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 teaspoons peppermint

    In a saucepan (2.5 quarts or larger) put your sugar, and pour over the half & half and water. 

    Add the syrup.  Now, I understand that not everyone keeps brown rice syrup on hand, so if you only have corn syrup go ahead and use it instead. 

    And last into the pan, the butter. 

    Turn the heat to medium and stir everything together.  Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a full boil. 

    Pop on a lid and leave it for 2 minutes.  See all that condensation?  That’s what washes all the sugar crystals off the sides of the pan, which is very important because one rogue crystal and can turn the whole batch into a grainy mess. 

    While the lid is on, wash the spoon or get a clean one out.  Also, get a small dish of ice cold water, and if you haven’t yet done so, butter a glass pan and set it atop hot pads or a folded towel.  I doubt you can do all that in 2 minutes, so you probably ought to butter the pan before you start.

    Go ahead and remove the lid.  When you begin to see larger bubbles forming, it’s time to start testing. 

    Get a little of the mixture on a spoon and drop it into the cold water. 

    You should be able to just scrape it together into a blob and pick it up. 

    Once you’ve reached that stage, go ahead and pour it into your prepared pan.  Be very careful because this is extremely hot! (hence the hot pads under the pan)

    You’ll have little bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, but don’t scrape them out.  Candy can be a bit temperamental, so just trust me. 

    Now allow the candy mixture to cool for a bit.  You want to be able to hold your hand on the bottom of the pan.  It’ll be warm, but not uncomfortably so.  That should take 20 – 30 minutes.  While you’re waiting, go ahead and line an 8x8 pan with parchment.  When the candy has cooled enough, go ahead and add the flavorings over the top.

    I should probably mention that if you’re using a different brand of peppermint flavoring, or if you’re using peppermint oil or extract, you might need to adjust the amount.  And now, the fun begins.  Using some sort of sturdy utensil, (I like a wooden spatula) start stirring. 

    Ok, stirring might not be the right word.  It’s more just scraping and folding.  Basically just keep it moving.  At first it will be like a thick, syrupy, gooey mess. 

    But don’t worry.  Just keep stirring.  There’s magic happening in there.  You’ll know it’s working as the mixture gradually becomes opaque. 

    And eventually, this happens!  Goodbye sticky, gooey mess.  Hello peppermint cream!  Although peppermint fudge might be a better description, since that’s basically what you have at this point. 

    Press it into your prepared pan, scraping every last morsel out of the stirring pan.  Get it even-ish across the top, but don’t worry about it being perfect or pretty. 

    Now, cover it and hide it because it smells fabulous, but it needs to sit overnight.  The fudgifying reaction takes time to finish its… reactioning.  What?  I’m not a physicist (or is this in the chemist’s realm?  Those two things definitely overlap).  I just know there’s special sugar crystal stuff going on in there and it’s much happier to be worked with after being left to its own devices for several hours.  You can even see the difference in this picture.  The texture is much creamier. 

    Using a pizza wheel, cut the block into 64 squares.  (Cut the square in half, the halves into quarters, the quarters into eighths, and repeat in the other direction.)

    I’ll tell you now, it’s going to be a mess.  They’ll all be stuck together and different sizes, but don’t worry about it. 

    Just pull them apart and place them onto a parchment lined sheet pan.  It’s best to flip them over as you do this and put the sticky side (what was the bottom) facing up.  Then pop them into the fridge for an hour. 

    When they’re nice and cold, place each square into the palm of your hand. 

    Squish in any corners or pokey bits, and roll it into a ball. 

    You’re going to be rolling balls in your hands for awhile, so you might as well sit down while you’re doing it. 

    After ball rolling, comes ball smashing.  I found it easiest to just use my thumb by pressing it into the middle, and then sort of tapping it around the edges. 

    You want them to be about ¼ inch thick.  When they’re all flattened, place them back into the fridge for a bit because your hands will have warmed them up. 

    When your patties are cold, they’re ready for dipping.  Place whatever kind of chocolate you like into a bowl.  I actually did 2 separate bowls, one for dark chocolate and one for white chocolate.  I love white chocolate and mint together. 

    Whatever you’re using, melt it.  If you’re using the microwave, do it in 30 second intervals, stirring between each one. 

    When it’s ready, go ahead and drop in a patty. 

    Using a fork, flip it over, allow the excess chocolate to run off, and place it onto another parchment lined sheet pan.  Repeat 63 times, and voilá!  Peppermint patties galore!  I think mint chocolate stuff is always better cold, so once they’re set, just put them in an airtight container in the fridge. 

    These are perfect for gifts, to have out for people when they come for a visit, or you can just eat them.  Hubby says they are the best mint creams he’s ever tasted.  Me being a bit of a chocoholic, we’ve been to lots of high end chocolate shops, so that’s quite a compliment.  Without patting myself on the back too much, I have to admit he’s right.  Not only are homemade chocolates better than what you can buy in any store, but as an added bonus, they’re also way cheaper.  I used organic, high quality ingredients, and two huge pans of chocolates cost me less than $10. 

    What’s your favorite flavor of chocolate creams? 

     

    Saturday
    Jul192014

    Chocolate Biscotti

    I don’t usually like really crunchy cookies. Why did I make biscotti then?

    Well, I’ve also been looking for cookie recipes that start with something other than “cream the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs and vanilla”.

    Plus, apparently the rock hard biscotti that we typically find at coffee shops (that I find too hard to bother with) are a lot harder than they should be. One of the managers at work is an old world Italian dude and he said that these cookies, which are crunchy but still bite-able, are what biscotti are supposed to be. When you dip them in coffee they don’t fall apart, but you can also bite them without first having to soften them in espresso, or amaretto. Or espresso with amaretto in it.

     

    What you need

    **I made a double batch and used twice the amount of everything so the pics look a little different**

    • ½ cup pine nuts or slivered almonds or hazlenuts or maybe pistachios?
    • 1 ½  cups flour  (you can substitute up to 1 cup of flour with almond flour)
    • ¾ cups sugar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ¼  teaspoon salt
    • ¼  cup cocoa
    • 2 tbsp cold butter, cut into little pieces (don’t bother with butter if you use almond flour)
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon Amaretto
    • 1 teaspoon Amaretto
    • ¾ cups chocolate chips

    What you gotta do

    I like toasty nuts. So, first thing I’m going to do is put the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium low.

    While those get toasty, start measuring the dry stuff into a big bowl. Don’t forget to shake the pan from time to time so that the nuts get toasty on all sides.

    Flour. Shake the pan. Sugar. Shake the pan. Baking powder and salt. Shake the pan.

    Sift the cocoa into the bowl to make sure all the little cocoa lumps get busted up.

    Shake the pan. Once the pine nuts are nice and golden toasty, set them aside to cool.

    Mix all the dry stuff together and then cut in the butter. Biscotti are traditionally made with ground almonds in there along with the flour, and no fat (butter, sweet, creamery butter), but since I’m not using the almonds, I need fat (butter, sweet, creamery butter).

    Cutting in the butter can be done with a pastry cutter, or forks, or knives. It’s the same thing you do when you’re making biscuits.

    In another bowl crack the eggs and add the Amaretto and the vanilla. And the Amaretto.

    Beat the eggs and Amaretto and vanilla and Amaretto together.

    Okay, so you know how when you make muffins, you toss the blueberries in a bit of flour to make sure they stick to the muffin batter? Along those lines… dump the chocolate chips and the cooled pine nuts into the egg mixture, and then pour it into the dry stuff.

    Wait. Preheat the oven now to 350.

    Since what we’re doing here is making a pastry type dough, we don’t want to mix it too much, since that makes gluten form and toughens the cookies. No one likes tough cookies. Mix just until things are starting to hold together and then dump it onto the counter in a big mess that’s half wet and sticky and half dry and crumbly. This is the same thing we did with the Welsh Cakes and you trusted me then, right? Right? Amaretto.

    Gently press the dry stuff into the sticky parts, and fold them over. Keep folding and pressing (while avoiding the urge to “knead” the dough) until it all comes together.

    Sorry about the perspective on those pics, but my hands were kinda messy.

    **I made a double recipe and cut my dough into 6. If you're just making a single, cut into 3.**

    Once the dough has come together, cut it into 6 wedges.

    Roll each wedge into a log about 8 or 9 inches long and press it into an oval that’s about 2 inches wide.

    If your dough is still really sticky (Amaretto), use cocoa, not flour on the counter.

    My dough was really sticky and I ended up with a lot of cocoa on the logs, so I brushed them with a bit of Amaretto. You could also brush them with beaten egg if you want a glossy look on the top.

    Bake the logs for 25 minutes, then set them on a rack to cool. My tiny one-room-sized air conditioner is in the bedroom. So I had the fan help them along with the whole cooling thing.

    Slice the logs into ½ to 1 inch thick slices on the diagonal. You should get a dozen or so from each log. And yes, you could stop here and just call these things cookies, but you couldn't call them "biscotti". Biscotti get their name from being twice baked (bi = two, cotte = cooked, that is your Latin lesson for the day).

    Now, you could evenly spread them out nicely so that air circulates around them, but fuck air space. I just got 6 dozen cookies on one baking sheet.

    I saw one site that suggested standing the slices up on edge but whoever wrote that obviously did not use Amaretto. Or bake them that way because seriously, wtf? Stand ½ inch thick slices of cookie on edge? Try it. Tell me if it works. Pics or it didn’t happen.

    Amaretto.

    Oh, and you know all of those little crumbly bits left on the cutting board?

    Whatever you do, don’t put them in a bowl, pour Amaretto over top and eat them like cereal. No pics. Didn’t happen.