Monday, February 14, 2011

Delicious Mess

Oh toffee. Why won't you work for me? Why do you insist on being mooshy and chewy rather than crisp? Oh toffee, why do you let me down?

This was my THIRD try at this toffee. The chocolate won't stick and the toffee just turns into a soft mess. I even cooked it at a higher heat. I would love to abandon this recipe and try another instead but here's the problem .... IT'S ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! The taste of this toffee makes you feel like you're committing some unforgivable sin, and so does the mess on your hands.

 I'm going to break my rule and post the recipe so maybe someone can help me out. It's from page 170 of "Bite-Size Desserts" by Carole Bloom.  I may be paraphrasing a tad on the directions.  There are a lot of great treats in this book that are single bites or just a couple of bites each.  They're perfect for a party where everyone will be bringing something or for those trying to watch their portion sizes.

2 cups (6 ounces) sliced almonds
1 tablespoon canola or safflower oil
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup (5 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine grained sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (62 to 72% cacao content), finely chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350F then toast almonds in a pie pan for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Cool completely then chop finely.  (I chop medium-ly because I like them better that way.)
  • Line a 7x11 inch baking pan with foil snuggly and so that the folds over the edges.  Oil the foil (that's fun to say) using a paper towel.  Sprinkle 3/4 cups of the toasted almonds over the bottom of the pan.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy 3 qt sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the sugar, water and salt and cook, stirring constantly with a heat resistant spatula, until 260F on a candy thermometer.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the almonds and continue cooking until it reaches 290F.  (I went to 310F last time in hopes of getting a crisper candy, didn't work.)  Immediately stir in the vanilla and baking soda.   BE CAREFUL, it will foam and bubble and do other entertaining yet potentially dangerous things.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle chocolate on top.  Let it stand for 2 minutes to allow chocolate to become melty and then spread.  Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup of almonds on top of chocolate.
  • Let toffee set up at room temperature for 30 minutes and then refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the chocolate.  (This seems like it may be a major contributor to mooshiness.  Could the humidity in the fridge be killing my toffee?  Maybe cooling it for a few hours at room temp would be better????)
  • Lift from pan by grabbing edges of foil.  Be careful, foil cuts are way less fun than paper cuts, trust me!  Peel foil away from toffee and break into small pieces.  Serve at room temp.
Like I said, it tastes incredible.  It's smooth and delicious but ... it's moosh.  Can you help me fix it?  Pleeeeeease??????

Thanks and enjoy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Holiday Trays

I've made individual holiday gifts for hubby's team at work ... until this year.  His team kept growing and growing and this year I just couldn't keep up.  Instead, I set up trays in their break room and left him with boxes of treats to refill them.  Everything got devoured by mid-afternoon.   Game developers like their treats!

Red Tray: toffee, red velvet cake balls, oatmeal cocoa nib cookies.   
Green Tray: peppermint bark, snickerdoodles

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oatmeal Cocoa Nib Cookies

For my birthday a sweet friend gave me a jar of cocoa nibs and a jar of cocoa beans.  She painted the tops of the jars with chalk board paint so she could label them and then attached peacock feathers to each.  Super adorable gift!  A few days later a can labeled "Theo's" showed up in my mailbox.  My sister sent me a can of roasted cocoa nibs from her favorite chocolate factory.  (She's going to take me there when I venture north to visit her!!!  I should probably be prepared to send a flat rate box home to myself.)

Before my birthday I'd heard of cocoa nibs but I'd never seen one, never tasted one, never touch or smelled one.  Now I was desperate to figure out how to use them so I did A LOT of reading.  First thing, they MUST be roasted.  If not they will taste bitter.  Roasting them is easy, just put them on a baking sheet in a 350F oven for a few minutes, until they are darker and smell amazing.  My oldest little sister (who sent me the Theo's) puts them on her oatmeal.  My middle little sister and I made berry crepes (store bought crepes), topped with homemade whipped cream and sprinkled with cocoa nibs.  It was incredible.

 And then came the cookies!  I've made these twice, once as minis and once as regular cookies.   Minis were for Christmas trays I brought to hubby's office.  I had plenty of leftovers so they went to New Orleans for Christmas.  The regular size cookies were for an event with friends which ended up getting snowed out.  Here in North Texas we don't deal so well with frozen conditions on roads, I mean, come one, it's Texas.  So, those went to hubby's office as well.

These cookies are delicious!  The little bit of crunch from the roasted nibs is a special treat, it gives the chocolate flavor without the predictable texture of chips.  I based the recipe on Shirley's cinnamon oatmeal cookies but I took out the raisins and put in the same amount of nibs.  It's too similar to hers for me to post the recipe, if I switch it up more in the future I'll post it.  Her recipes are just so .... perfect that it's hard for me to want to change a thing.

If you ate any of these I'd love to know what you think.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Kelli's Famous Peppermint Bark

Since my husband has been at his current company I've made peppermint bark every Christmas, as gifts for his co-workers.  Somehow my peppermint bark has become famous.  I really don't understand it, it's so simple.  Last year one guy left the company to go travel and requested a batch for himself.  This Christmas I made some trays of treats.  Someone told me they saw the bark in the kitchen but didn't eat it because they didn't know who had made it.  When I told them it was mine they went and put a stack of it on a napkin and brought it back to their desk.  Honestly, I don't understand it, it's so simple.

So here it is .... my famous (for some reason) peppermint bark.

How To:

You'll need one large baking sheet, heavy duty aluminum foil, one package chocolate bark coating, one package vanilla, almond or white chocolate bark coating, 6 candy canes.

Line your baking sheet with foil, wrapping it up over the sides.  Unwrap candy canes and smash them up into bits.  A food processor is the easy way but if you have a young helper you can put the candy canes in a zip top bag and let the little one smash them with a mallet, heavy spoon or rolling pin.  Melt the chocolate bark in a double boiler or the microwave, DO NOT OVERHEAT.  Pour it into the baking sheet and spread it even with a heat resistant spatula.  Allow to cool and harden.  Melt white bark.  I'll often melt my white bark in the double boiler so that it takes more time.  It helps me deal with the impatience of waiting for the chocolate to harden.  Pour the melted white bark onto the cooled chocolate bark.  Sprinkle candy cane bits onto hot bark and pat down gently.  Allow it all to cool COMPLETELY and then break into pieces.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Red Velvet (virgin) Cake Balls and Amazingly Incredible Frosting

Over the summer I did Red Velvet minis for a party at a club.  Well, I guess they liked them because they ordered Red Velvet Cake Balls for their XXXmas party.  They asked for 120 Red Velvet Cake Balls with white coating and red and green sprinkles.

I made an extra 30 so hubby and I could snitch a couple and there would still be plenty left to add to the trays I made for his office.  (More on that another day.)

Here they are with some of that sprinkle bark I told you about.

Red Velvet Cake Balls:

makes ABOUT 50

1 - 8x2 round red velvet cake (I use the one from Rose's Heavenly Cakes)
Amazingly Incredible Frosting (basically buttercream with cream cheese replacing half the butter and 1 Tbsp cocoa powder added)
vanilla candy coating

Mash up cake in a large bowl.  Add a splash of buttermilk and enough frosting to make it all hold together.

Measure out 1 Tbsp at a time to form balls of cake and lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  DON'T LET THEM TOUCH.  Pop this in the freezer for an hour or more.

Melt candy coating and dip frozen cake balls.  Top with sprinkles.  Sprinkles stick better before coating dries, I did a 'dip 3, sprinkle 3' rotation.  Allow to cool and then ....


Wednesday, January 5, 2011


As a kid I like helping out with the snickerdoodles.  I don't know which recipe my mother used but they were a little bit puffy and light.  The recipe I used, not so much. 

A couple of months ago I bought some flour at Whole Foods.  I poured into my flour container and threw away the bag so I can't tell you the name but it seems to be a very low protein flour and that makes my cookies sad.  I mixed 1/4 of that with 3/4 of gold medal all-purpose but still, sad cookies.  I was pleased and excited about the red sugar but otherwise my snickerdoodles spread too much and were too crisp.

I checked Bake Wise to see what Shirley might suggest for too flat, too crisp cookies.  She says higher protein flour and use butter flavored shortening instead of butter.  I think that using gold medal or pillsbury should take care of the flour issue but if not I'll have to hunt down some King Arthur.  I was, at least, happy with the way they looked although I suspect they may have been slightly over leavened.

So, here's what I'll do next time:

1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar (for coating)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for coating)

In a medium bowl, beat the shortening for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 cup sugar and beat until combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Beat into the shortening mixture gradually until all combined.  Cover and chill for one hour.

Stir together the 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375F for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the edges are golden.  Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, January 3, 2011


This one is just a silly little thing I did.  I was busy coating cake balls and texting with my sister, who was in a funk.  My sister goes crazy over sprinkles.  It's almost absurd how much she loves them.  When I finished the cake balls I had a decent amount of vanilla candy coating left over so I poured it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment and went sprinkle crazy on it.  She was so excited when I gave it to her the next day.  To be honest, it tasted great and the sprinkles gave it a good texture.

You'll need:

candy coating
parchment lined baking sheet

Melt candy coating in the microwave or a double boiler.  Pour onto parchment and sprinkle relentlessly.  Allow to cool or, for those of us who are impatient, cool in fridge.  Break, eat, enjoy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Unbelievable Cinnamon Rolls From Scratch

First of all let me say Happy New Year.  I hope the year ahead of you is better than the one behind.

For about a year now I've been wanting to make cinnamon rolls from scratch.  The ones that come in a can are good.  The fresh baked ones at the mall are great.  But I had a crazy feeling that home baked would be even better.  The thing that held me back all this time was the prospect of having a million left over or having to take them somewhere and serving them less than perfectly fresh.

Dough made, topped, rolled, cut and set out to rise.

One weekend my brother in law was in town and I decided this was the chance I'd been waiting for.  I cracked open Artisan Breads Every Day and set to work.  Because of Reinhart's method these take a good while.  The dough is prepared and then set to rise in the fridge over night.  In the morning it comes out a full three hours before it's ready to bake.  This may seem like a lot of work, and it is.  I wasn't about to prepare them for breakfast so we had them very early in the afternoon.  It was worth every bit of work.

Rolls risen and ready to go into the oven.

It turns out I need more work at rolling out dough into a rectangle.  Haha, mine was more of a rectangular-ish amoeba.  The recipe says the yield is 24 but I got a few more HUGE cinnamon rolls than that.  We each had one, and then another the next day.  I put some in the fridge and the hubby and I had one a night for a few days.  I gave 4 to my sister and I still have 4 in my freezer!  It made A LOT!

All baked and ready to frost.  You wouldn't believe how good they smelled.

I made them with the cream cheese frosting rather than the white fondant glaze, in part because I love cream cheese frosting but also because I had an extra package in my fridge from my birthday cake.  I think that next time I might make them as sticky buns, just to give that a try.

Ready to eat!  Soft and gooey and delicious!

And now, to get my 2011 off to a good start, I'm going to reorganize my cabinets!  If I'm not exhausted by that endeavor and if I'm feeling brave enough I might reorganize my pantry too.  What am I getting myself into?  Wish me luck.


*Because I borrowed this recipe and did not alter it (in other words, because it does not belong to me) I will not be posting the recipe.  Please refer to Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday pages 140 - 144.