Homemade Marshmallows

10173759_10152138040480326_749504309667395726_nRecently my boss brought in some homemade marshmallows to the office. They were amazing, fluffy, white, sweet puffs of deliciousness. I was inspired to make them myself as I love marshmallow everything! I used Alton Browns Marshmallow recipe and they turned out great. I did, however, run out of granulated sugar and compensated by adding some extra corn syrup. I think this made them feel and taste a lot more like what you would expect a marshmallow to be if you bought a big bag of them in a store. Not bad at all, however, the home made ones I was after were a tad more fluffy, so next time I will have plenty of sugar on hand!

10013982_10152138035905326_5647854166855334660_nI won’t go into the details of the recipe here, but it was fairly simple. It was my first foray into candy making and I was nervous. I will tell you, if you are also new to this, you really do need a candy thermometer (I got one at the grocery store for 3 dollars) and a stand mixer. I cant stress enough how much you will need a stand mixer. Even if you have the endurance to hold an electric hand mixer for 15 minutes straight, it would be quite a feat to do so while mixing this sticky concoction. Even my stand mixer was moving around from the viscosity in the bowl! Also, don’t expect to eat them right away! They need to cool for at least 4 hours before you can cut them out and devour them. It was hard to wait!

So, four and half hours later I have these yummy pillows of sugar. What to do with them?! Well its April, not much of a hot cocoa season anymore. But marshmallows and chocolate mmmmm…..

10150631_10152138062055326_3235906161928690389_nSo I decided to dip them in chocolate and top them with whatever I had laying around! Graham crackers? Check! Coconut? Check! So I made s’more marshmallows and coconut marshmallows and they turned out fabulous.

I simply melted a cup of semi sweet chocolate morsels in the microwave. You can use a double boiler if you want, but its soooooo much easier just to put them in a microwave safe bowl, pop that into the microwave for a minute, give it a stir, and pop it back in for another minute. Then just remove and stir until smooth. If you want to be more professional you can add shortening to the chocolate and do some fancy shmancy stuff, but I was working on the fly here!

Once chocolate is melted and smooth grab a marshmallow dip into chocolate and then dip lightly into your topping of choice – or you can just stick with plain chocolate. Let sit on a piece of parchment or a tray, plate, whatever until the chocolate hardens, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container.

Pretty easy! Enjoy!!

Apple Cider Quick Bread

Also because of our insane apple picking spree i used up a couple apples making these quick breads. They are super moist and delicious!! This recipe works nicely in a muffin tin, you will probably have to reduce the bake time to 30-40 minutes, but keep an eye on them and bake  until a cake tester inserted into center of loaf comes out with moist crumbs attached.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup apple cider
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 large coarsely chopped apple. I used Jonah Gold, but anything will work.
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional, i did not use these)
  • 2 Tbls. cinnamon and sugar mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt, making a well in the center. Set aside. Stir in the liquid ingredients (if the butter is still warm, use it to temper the eggs first or they will scramble and your bread will be nasty) until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. Gently stir in the apples and the pecans. Pour the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of loaf comes out with moist crumbs attached. Do not over bake!

Cool the loaf in the pan completely before cutting, otherwise it will fall apart when you cut it. This is delicious serves with a little whip creme or creme fraiche. I didnt try it, but i also imagine it would be good with some creme cheese frosting – try the recipe from the apple butter cupcakes.

Blackberry French Toast Casserole

On vacation back in April my boyfriend, Derek, and I went to South Carolina to visit his mom. She made us this blackberry french toast casserole that was out of this world. So, while puttering around Trader Joe’s yesterday, I found some very delicious looking blackberries and decided to give the casserole a whirl, re-creating the recipe from memory. It was fantastic! Very simple to make and very satisfying, I actually had some for dinner too, it was that yummy!

Ingredients:

1 loaf Challa or Brioche (best if you allow the bread to sit out overnight to dry out a bit)

8 Eggs

1/4 Cup of Milk

1/4 Cup light creme

1/2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Nutmeg

1 Teaspoon Allspice

1 tub of cream cheese

1/4 cup of sugar

2 pints blackberries

Maple Syrup

Mint for garnish (optional)

So, first – the oven to 350 degrees, then cut the bread up into approx. one inch cubes, this dish had a rustic feel to it so you don’t need to be super perfectionist with the cubing of the bread. Set aside the bread in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine eggs, milk, creme, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Whisk until well blended, pour egg mixture over bread stir gently to coat each piece. Set bread and egg mixture aside so it can absorb the eggs.

In A small bowl combine cream cheese and sugar and stir together until well blended and smooth, and yes you can use splenda if you need to, just cut it down to maybe 2 tablespoons or splenda. If you use a light cream cheese it can become really soft, almost soupy, so put the cream cheese mixture in the fridge for a few minutes to let it firm up a bit. You want it to be soft and spreadable, but not like liquid.

In a 9×9 baking dish (or any small stoneware or glass baking dish will do), give a light spray of non-stick spray. Put half of the bread mixture down in an even layer. Then spread the cream cheese mixture on top as evenly as you can. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 pint of blackberries, cover with remaining bread mixture and top with the rest of blackberries.

Cook in over for 25 minutes, until top is golden brown. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, and serve drizzled with maple syrup, and a sprig of mint if you’re trying to impress, and don’t forget a big steaming mug of Costa Rican coffee from St. Lawrence Valley Roasters! DELISH!!!!

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Congo Bars!

So I thought I would be nice and bring in a yummy treat for my brave co-workers who, without regard for their own safety, came to work today with a pending snow storm. So I flipped through all the easy to transport desserts in my arsenal and decided upon those oh so delicious favorites, the Congo Bar, similar to the magic bar, this is a more congealed sticky version, done with more of a batter, where as the magic bar is a layered bar. Same ingredients, different method, wonderful results! So, that being said here is the recipe, I highly recommend making them, its easy, they keep well in an air tight container, or in the freezer, but it’s unlikely you will have any leftover to store!

First pre-heat the oven to 325 and line a 9×13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over the narrow sides a few inches. Grease or spray the foil with non stick spray.

Then you need to make the cookie crust, fairly simple. 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour, 3/4 cups brown sugar (the original recipe says dark, light works just as well) and 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbls unsalted butter. This step is similar to the pie dough, you need to cut the cold butter into the flour and brown sugar. You can do this with a pastry cutter, or if you don’t have one you can use a fork or even your fingers. Basically you want to mash it all up until it resemble coarse crumbs. Then press the dough into an even layer into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are just barely browned. Remove the crust and allow to cool slightly.

While the crust cools a bit you can make the sticky topping. In a medium bowl mix the following with an electic mixed (you can use a whisk if you dont have an electric mixer, but its going to be tiresome, these are sticky ingredients!) 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk, 2 large eggs, 1 large egg yolk, 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 tsp baking powder, generous 1/8 tsp salt. 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Blend ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Then beat in 2 1/2 Tbls of all pourpose flour, then stir in 1 cup shopped pecans (I had whole ones that I used for the caramel apple pie, just put them into a zip top bag and smashed up with a frying pan) 1 cup shredded coconut, 1 cup chocolate chips (i prefer the milk chocolate morsels, but you can use whatever you prefer). Pour this mixture over the crust and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it though after about 28 minutes. You want the whole thing to be golden brown and the middle to be barely cooked through, a little wiggle is fine. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely! This is really important, it’s not like cookies or brownies where you can sneak them when they are hot and fresh from the oven, if you try to cut these before they cool they will ooze everywhere make a mess and destroy the bars, trust me I have made this mistake on several occasions! Your patience will be rewarded!

Once the bars have cooled completely, use the excess foil as handles and lift the bars out of the pan and place on a cutting surface. Remove the foil and using a big and SHARP knife cut into bars, wipe the blade with a warm damp dish  towel between cutting to get a cleaner cut.

Thats pretty much it, put into an air tight container and bring to work as a good bribe to get people to do stuff for you (Thanks Melissa for the photo op!), or kick up your feet, put on a good movie and proceed to eat them all, just make sure to have plenty of milk on hand! Enjoy!!!

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Caramel Apple Pie..Oh My!

I love to bake! You have clearly seen my love of cooking, especially italian food, but thats nothing compared to my love of baking. I actually went to Cambridge Culinary School my senior year of college to get a certificate in baking. So, I had a lovely weekend, full of stress and drama, which I hate. My idea of relaxation is baking, I find it to be very zen. There is nothing more meditative than people baking something that is very involved, and nothing could be more involved then a pie. So here it is the heavenly Caramel Apple Pie! Delicious! Now I will let you in on the secrets of my pie. First lets start with the crust, there is nothing better than home-made crust. So many have issues with making a good crust, flakey and tender are just polar opposites, so hard to attain. So here is the secret, Butter (mixed with lard is fine, I prefer all butter) and Patience! Here is my recipe for a fantastic pie crust.

Makes 2 9 inch pie crusts

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (cut into tablespoon size chunks)
6-7 tablespoons ice-cold water

First sift the flour with the salt right on to you counter top. What you want to do next is add the butter one tablespoon at a time and pinch together with the flour. You want it to resemble coarse meal when you are done. Then I mound up the flour butter mixture and form a well in the middle. Pour a tablespoon or two of the cold water into the well and start to fold the flour over the water. Keep combining the flour and water in this fashion until you have a ball of dough. Then divide into two balls. Put aside one ball. The trick here to getting a flaky crust is layers Rip the ball in half and stack the halves on top of each other, knead lightly back into a ball. Continue this stacking and kneading about four times. But be gentle with it, this isn’t a bread dough. Form the dough into a disk wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Do the same with the second ball of dough. Ta-Da!! Pie dough!

The filling is the next big step, this is much easier, while the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. For the caramel apple pie slice up about 7 apples (granny smith or gala) into either 1/2-3/4 inch thickness or into chunks, either is fine its your preference, but they shouldn’t really be smaller than half an inch in thickness, otherwise you end up with a pie full of apple sauce. The trick to slicing apples and keeping their pretty white color is squeeze half a lemon into a large mixing bowl, put the slices into the lemon juice as you cut, by tossing the fresh apple slices with lemon juice they wont brown, the citric acid keeps them white and crisp. After all the apples are sliced mix in 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons of quick cooking tapioca, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, if you have it a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg is a nice touch but not necessary. Set this aside to macerate (that means the juices get drawn out)

Remove the pie dough, toll out to about 11 inches in diameter (about 1/8 inch thick). My trick is to roll the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, it keeps the dough from sticking and makes it easy to transfer to the pie dish. Transfer dough to pie dish, make sure to push it in to the bottom and all crevices, cut off extra dough that hangs over with a pairing knife. Now my trick to a good bottom crust is an egg wash. Whisk one egg and one tablespoon heavy cream, brush mixture over bottom crust. Then pour in apple filling. Roll out the second ball of dough and lay over the filling. Crimp edges shut with the tines of a fork. Cut a hole in the center to let the steam vent (or it will blow up! Not fun to clean!) Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash, place the whole thing on a cookie sheet and throw into the over, now go entertain yourself for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes check the pie, if the edges are browning too quickly cover with tin foil or one of those nifty pie crust shields. Now make the caramel sauce, in small saucepan over medium low heat melt 4 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, and 1.2 cup of chopped pecans ( I used halved pecans because i was feeling lazy, either works fine). Let the ingredient bubble for a few minutes and then remove the pie from the oven and spoon the hot caramel mixture over the top of the pie, return to the over for 5 more minutes or until caramel topping is set. Remove the pie from the over and allow to cool completely (this is the hardest part because it will smell soooooo good, all you to do it eat it!!! But waiting is worth it!).

For a final touch, whip up some fresh whipping cream with a teaspoon or splenda and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to stiff peaks. Slice top with whip cream and serve!!!!  It seems like soooo much work now that i wrote the whole thing out here, if you’re still reading you’re a trooper. I promise it’s not as difficult as it seems and with a little patience and a lot of love you will have a wonderful pie to share, make it for your dad, in-laws, roommates, whoever! They will love you forever!

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