Feb 7, 2010

Sugar Baby

Next weekend, rather than celebrating the Hallmark/Hersheys holiday, I've planned a girls' weekend with some of my oldest pals. Instead of stocking up on store-bought snacks, I decided to whip up a few homemade candies for us to munch on. Because after all, what goes better with wine and girl talk than marshmallows, chocolate and peanut butter??

Sweet Treats: Cinnamon Marshmallows and Salted Peanut Butter Cups

Both recipes adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It. I got this book over the holidays and it's full of great food projects - always wanted to know how to cure your own bacon, make your own crackers or brew your own fruit liqueurs? Then you need this book. Not that adventurous? Don't worry, it also includes easy recipes for all kind of pickles, sauces and these sweet treats.

Cinnamon Marshmallows
These are fluffier and sweeter than the jet puffed ones we're all accustomed to. I added cinnamon to the original recipe but the possibilities are endless: cocoa, coconut, dried fruit, chai spices, toasted nuts or just leave 'em plain. Fire up the grill and make s'mores, top a cup of cocoa or eat them as is - they're delicious!

What you need:  
2/3 cup water, divided
3 (.25 oz.) envelopes unflavored gelatin  
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
pinch of kosher salt
1 tea vanilla extract
2 TB cinnamon (optional)
powdered sugar
vegetable oil

How you make them:
Lightly oil an 8x8" pan with vegetable oil and generously coat with powdered sugar. Set aside. Put 1/3 cup water in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer, add gelatin and let stand for about 10 minutes until gelatin has dissolved and softened.

In small saucepan combine remaining water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place pan over medium high heat and cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240 degrees F. You'll need a candy thermometer and make sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan.

With mixer on low speed, carefully add hot syrup to the gelatin. Add the vanilla and turn the speed up to medium high.  Beat for 12-13 minutes until the mixture is thick, very white and holds peaks. If you're using additional flavors be sure to add them in the last minute of beating, before mixture becomes too thick.

Spread marshmallow in the 8x8 pan using a lightly oiled spatula and smooth it into corners. Set aside for one hour until marshmallow has completely cooled. Run a wet knife around the edges of the pan and turn the marshmallow out onto a sheet of waxed paper sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. Cut into approx. 36 pieces and toss with powdered sugar and cinnamon until no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container, layers separated by sheets of wax paper, for up to one month. 

Salted Peanut Butter Cups
Good flaky salt makes all the difference here, the original recipe doesn't call for it but I think you really need Maldon salt, or something like it, to make these shine. Good quality chocolate helps too, though no one will turn them down if you stick with Nestle. I doubled the book's recipe - I just have a feeling they're going to be popular! 

What you need:
2 2/3 cups salted, shelled, roasted peanuts
2 tea vegetable oil
4 tea honey
4 TB powdered sugar
1 tea vanilla extract
4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Maldon flaked salt

How you make them:
Puree peanuts in a food processor until smooth. Add oil if they get too thick to blend. Add honey, powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue to puree until everything is combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

Using clean hands, separate peanut butter filling into 24 pieces if using standard size cupcake liners or 36 pieces if using mini-muffin size liners. Roll filling between your palms and flatten slightly into disks. Set aside. Place paper liners in muffin pans and set aside.

Heat chocolate chips  in microwave for one minute on high. Stir with a fork and heat for another minute. Continue until chocolate is almost completely melted, stirring at the end to melt the last bits. Spoon two teaspoons of chocolate in each paper liner using the back of the spoon to push chocolate halfway up the sides. Drop peanut butter disks into each cup and tap them gently into the chocolate. Top with one more teaspoon of chocolate, smoothing it over the peanut butter filling and making sure it touches the chocolate on the bottom and the tops are smooth. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Let peanut butter cups sit, undisturbed for at least 3-4 hours until chocolate has cooled and hardened. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 2 weeks. 

Feb 3, 2010

Remember These?

The Crostata! This one has pears and crystalized ginger and was made with love by my #1 fan - my mom :)

I've been tardy in posting this one as we devoured it back in the fall, but I remember it being particularly tasty... have you made a crostata yet? Well, why the hell not? They're so easy, just assemble and pop it in the oven before you sit down to eat. When dinner's over you just casually head over to the stove, pull out a browned, bubbling treat and stand back while everyone oohs & ahhs. You'll be a hero. 

I love love love when you guys send me pics & stories about the recipes you've tried from the site - keep 'em coming!