Carrot Cake Truffles

Today is just about the most important Hop Day with Izzy.  Oh yes, there’s a birthday involved, but not for any human member of the family.

It’s Izzy’s birthday!!  She’s a whole year old this week!  Week, you ask?  Well yes.  You see, when we got her, all we knew was that she was 13 weeks old.  We traced her birth back to this week, and since Wednesday is her day, let’s make July 11th Izzy’s birthday from now on.

I really can’t believe she’s a year old already.  She was such a tiny little thing when we got her, and even though she’s still pretty tiny (weighing in at a whopping two pounds) she’s truly grown and developed her own personality.  Even if she annoys the crap out of me with her sassy attitude sometimes.  We still love her, I mean, she is the cutest little thing ever.

So what do you make for your bunny’s birthday?  Carrot cake, duh.  But I’ve already posted about carrot cake on this blog, so I thought I’d do something a little different.  Enter the carrot cake truffle.

Yep, it’s pretty much as ethereal as it sounds, but it does come from Milk: the Momofuku cookbook originally, so I didn’t expect any less.  They’re basically a carrot cake/cheesecake ball coated in white chocolate and milk crumbs.

It’s like carrot cake heaven in your mouth.  I will put out a disclaimer though.  It would be a good idea to spread the making of these truffles out over two days.  I made the mistake of going at it all at once, and it was rough.  I’d recommend making the filling the day before you want to serve them, then make the crumb coating and assemble them on the day they’ll be served.  They were a bit of work, but sooooo worth it.  I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot the last few days…

Carrot Cake Truffles

Adapted from The Baker Chick via Milk: The Momofuku Cookbook

Makes 12-15 truffles

This is what you’ll need:

3 cups Carrot Cake Scraps (recipe below)
2-4 Tbsp Liquid Cheesecake (recipe below)
1 recipe Milk Crumbs finely ground in a food processor (recipe below)
3 oz. white chocolate

Instructions for each part will follow each ingredient list

For the carrot cake:

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar

1 large egg
1/8 cup vegetable oil
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups shredded, peeled carrots (2 medium sized carrots)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, and stir to combine.  Add in the oil and mix until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter/sugar mixture, and completely homogenous, with no streaks of fat. This will take about 5 minutes (work those arms!)

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and combine carefully. Mix just until your batter comes together and any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated.  Fold in the shredded carrots.

Coat an 8×8” pan with cooking spray and using a spatula, spread the batter in an even layer in the pan.  Bake for 25-30 mins. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 25 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger, if it bounces back slightly and isn’t jiggly in the center, it’s done. Leave it in for 3-5 more minutes if it isn’t quite done.  Cool the cake on a wire rack.

For the liquid cheesecake:

4 oz cream cheese
½ cup minus 2 Tbsp sugar
½ Tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp milk
½ egg*

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Put cream cheese in a medium sized bowl and beat until well whipped.  Add the sugar and mix for 1-2 mins, until the sugar has been completely incorporated.  Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.  *To make ½ egg, crack your egg in a small bowl, whisk it up with a fork, and pour in about half.

Add the egg slurry into the cream cheese mixture. Beat until the mixture is smooth and loose, about 3-4 minutes.

Line the sides and bottom of a 9×5” baking pan with aluminum foil.  Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan and bake for 15 mins.  It is done when it is set on the edges but still jiggly in the center. If the edges aren’t quite set, bake for 5 min increments until it’s done- no more than 25 minutes.

Cool completely to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. It will be creamy, and spreadable and can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to a week.

For the milk crumb:

1/8 cup milk powder

2 Tbsp flour
½ Tbsp cornstarch
½ Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 ½ Tbsp milk powder
1 oz white chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the 1/8 cup of milk powder with the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the butter and toss using a spatula until the mixture comes together and forms small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 mins.  The crumbs should be sandy and the kitchen will smell amazing! Cool crumbs.  Crush any bits that are larger than 1/2 inch diameter and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the milk powder and toss together.

Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your the crumbs are all well-coated. Continue tossing them every 5 mins until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters aren’t sticky. Run the dried and cooled clusters through the food processor before using them for the truffles.

To assemble the truffles, combine the 3 cups of mushed up cake with 3-4 Tbsp of the liquid cheesecake. Using your hands mush it all together. If it is moist enough to knead into a ball it’s great- if not, add some more liquid cheesecake until it’s ready. Portion out 12-15 balls of the mixture- roll them together with your hands and set them aside on a cookie sheet.

Melt the white chocolate in a shallow bowl. Using a spoon or your fingers, dip each ball of cake into the white chocolate and tap it on the side of the bowl until all the drips are off.  Then toss it in the milk crumb until well coated. Put them in the fridge for at least 5 minutes to fully set the chocolate. The truffles can be stored in an airtight container for unto a week in the fridge.  Enjoy!!


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Cups

I have noticed this strange phenomenon around the food blogosphere where many peoples’ posts this week have welcomed the advent of summer.  I do not understand these people.  I honestly think about going north for the summer.

Growing up in a home without central air-conditioning, and living in an apartment without even a window ac, I guess summer and I have never been friends.  Not even close, in fact, we may even be enemies.

Summer knows that it makes me sweat wayyy too much, it knows how uncomfortable I find bathing suits, and how devastating cooling off can be when you’re overheated (jumping into a cold pool even when I’m hot is like nails on a chalkboard for me).  Warming up, on the other hand, is always pleasant.

But, I’m pretty far north, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with these occasional heat waves.  Maybe we’ll be putting central air in the new house, then I can actually use the kitchen on days when it breaks 90 degrees.  Let’s just say the last few days have made me very sad, staring at my kitchen longingly.

So I keep a few of these babies in the fridge to cheer me up.  They’re like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, except the filling is a chocolate chip peanut butter cookie dough.  Yeah, pretty awesome, I know.  The next time we have a predicted heat wave, I’m definitely going to make like 4 batches of these beforehand.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Cups

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes 24 cups

2 ½ cups milk or semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

¾ cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

¼ tsp salt

½ cup mini chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, heat butter until melted. Whisk in brown sugar until dissolved, then let it bubble for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter. The mixture will be liquidly. Whisk in vanilla. Let cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Line a mini muffin with liners. Melt 1 1/4 cups of chocolate chips (you can use the microwave, heating on full power for 20 seconds, stir, 30 seconds again, and stir until melted, or in a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water). Drop 1/2-1 teaspoon of chocolate into each liner, then use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to brush chocolate up the sides of the liner.

Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. By this point the butter mixture should be cool. Whisk in powdered sugar, salt and flour, until combined and few lumps remain. Fold in mini chocolate chips. The dough will be wet, so put it in the fridge for 15 minutes to harden.

Remove muffin tin and cookie dough, and place 1 teaspoon of cookie dough into the chocolate cups. Place back in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Melt the remaining chocolate chips, then cover each cookie dough top with chocolate, smoothing with a spoon. Freeze again for 15-20 minutes. These are fine out in room temperature for a few hours, though they might soften, or in my current kitchen, melt.  I think they’re better stored in the fridge, just in case.

Gingerbread Peanut Caramels

Today is my favorite part of Easter.  As a child, the candy was provided for me, hidden inside the colorful plastic eggs my mother would hide around the house.  She’d leave little wicker baskets filled with that fake Easter grass outside my brother’s and my bedroom door, awaiting our bounding footsteps come morning.

My mom would also label the eggs she hid so my brother couldn’t dominate the search and keep me from my rightfully deserved Easter goodies.  The eggs would contain jelly beans, coins, and chocolate eggs.  She would also hide a larger chocolate rabbit for each of us.

Man, Easter is great.  Though nowadays, no one hides candy for me, I just go and buy it at a massive discount, and still reap the same amount of pleasure.

Caramels aren’t really an Easter candy, but it’s always nice to shake things up.  Hey, I just had steak last night for Easter dinner, so anything’s possible.

These caramels have a deep, luscious gingerbread flavor that is brilliantly punctuated by bits of chopped peanut.  I need to make caramel more often.   This stuff is sooooo good.

Gingerbread Peanut Caramels

Adapted from Vanilla Sugar Blog

Makes a lot of caramels (like 60-70)

4 Tbsp salted butter (I used unsalted)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup half & half
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Giant pinch of sea salt
½ cup of honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Line an 8X8” baking dish with foil and grease. Get out a candy thermometer and clip onto a tall, heavy pot. Get your chopped peanuts ready, set aside.
Combine the butter, chocolate, milk, molasses, sugar, and salt in the pot. Place over medium heat and stir constantly and CONSTANTLY scrape the bottom of pan.  Let it boil and cook until the temperature reaches around 247 -249 (soft ball stage).  This will take 20-25 mins.  Make sure you can commit yourself to your caramel for this time period.

Once it hits this temperature remove from heat.  And add in the vanilla extract and stir (it will make a lot of noise and sizzle).
Next, working fast, add in your peanuts, and give it a good stir.
Once mixed, pour the hot mixture into your prepared baking dish.
In about 45 mins to one hour you should be able to handle caramel. Gently invert it from the  baking dish and transfer to a wooden board or plastic cutting board.
Using a sharp knife cut long strips about ¾ of an inch, then cut those strips into 1 or 2 inch pieces.) Wrap in wax paper and enjoy!  The caramels will stay good for 2-3 weeks, and while they may become a little hard, they are still perfectly tasty.

Dark Chocolate Marshmallows

It finally snowed a little bit in Eastern Massachusetts.  And then, in the span of one day, it melted and it rained.  Oh, New England.

When I was younger, snow was always a happy event.  Snow meant school closures, romping with friends, sledding and hot chocolate.  Nowadays, snow elicits two reactions from me.  Scenario 1: It’s nighttime, and I’m all bundled up in my pjs.  “Oh look, snow!  It’s so pretty.”  And then I return to whatever I was doing.

Scenario 2: It’s the morning of a busy day, “Oh shiz, I have to drive in that mess?!  Crap.”  Where did the magic go?  Maybe one day if I have a yard and a working fireplace, the snow will become my friend once again.  I hope so; I really do love winter.

Who doesn’t love a cup of hot cocoa after playing in the snow, or as is the case now, shoveling out the car.  And what cup of cocoa is complete without a few choice marshmallows floating listlessly on top?  And what if you yourself made those fluffy little clouds with your own two hands (and some kitchen equipment)?

Homemade marshmallows have swept through the food blogging world, leaving a trail of very satisfied people in its wake.  I made this batch as Christmas presents for my family.  At first glace, they all thought it was fudge.  WRONG!

These marshmallows are the opposite of fudge.  They are light and airy, while still maintaining a super chocolaty flavor.  Amazing.  They’re a little less chewy than the store bought variety, and more like an ethereal little bite of heaven.  I’m really excited to make other kinds of marshmallows to adorn my cocoa cups.  Bring it on winter.

Dark Chocolate Marshmallows

Adapted from U Try.It

1/2 cup cocoa powder, divided
3/4 cup cold water, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 (1/4-ounce) packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Line an 8 by 8-inch baking sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder on the bottom and the sides of the parchment paper, set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, add chopped chocolate, salt and instant coffee, heat on high until chocolate is melted.  Stop and stir at 30 seconds intervals.  When chocolate is melted, stir in 1/4 cup cocoa powder.  Set aside to let cool.

In a medium saucepan, add 1/3 cup of the water, the sugar and the corn syrup and heat over medium heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir the mixture and continue to cook the syrup until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Then heat the gelatin in a microwave for 25 to 30 seconds to liquefy it.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed with a hand mixer until firm.  As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat.

With the mixer on medium low speed, slowly add the syrup to the egg whites.  Pouring it between the spinning beater and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes.  When the ingredients are fully incorporated and slightly cooled, beat in the vanilla and chocolate mixture until well combined.

With a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread the mixture into the corners and smooth the surface.  Dust the top of the marshmallow with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Leave it in a cool, dry place to set.  It takes about 2 to 3 hours.  Once the marshmallow is cooled and set, cut into small pieces with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife.


Homemade Butterfinger Bars

The holiday season is upon us, and here I am posting about a recipe that involves candy corn.  Oops, my bad.  Hopefully you’ve got a bag stashed away in your pantry somewhere, because this recipe is worth making at least once.

Looks kinda weird, tastes good, I swear!

When I first saw this recipe, I was quite doubtful as to whether it would actually taste like the real thing.  My other thought was who created this recipe??!!!  Melting candy corn and mixing it with peanut butter, cover it in chocolate and suddenly you have a homemade butterfinger bar.  What??!!!   Was it a happy accident or intentional?  Like who discovered that if you beat egg whites long enough, they turn into meringue?

Either way, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this recipe.  It definitely tasted incredibly close to an actual butterfinger.  So if you get bored of Thanksgiving leftovers, make a change Halloween throwback style with these homemade butterfingers.

Also, have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Homemade Butterfinger Bars

Adapted from Buns In My Oven

 3 cups candy corn

1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter

milk chocolate chips or candy melts, for dipping

Place the candy corn in a large bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and return to microwave. Continue heating for 30 seconds and then stirring until it is completely melted.

Stir in the peanut butter. The heat from the candy corn should melt the peanut butter, but if not return to the microwave for 15 seconds. Stir to combine.

Spread the mixture into an 8×8 baking dish lined with parchment paper. Smooth it out evenly in the pan. Let cool for one hour and then use a pizza cutter to slice into bars.

Melt the chocolate chips or candy melts in the microwave.

Carefully dip the candy bars into the melted chocolate and turn to coat.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and wait for the chocolate to set.

Store at room temperature for a chewy texture or in the fridge for a more crisp texture.

Apple Cider Caramels +Topsfield Fair and a new friend

Another fantastic fall activity I neglected to mention are fairs.  I’m not sure why they only happen in the fall, but for me, it’s just another plus for the season.  Growing up in the Connecticut River Valley, I often attended the Durham Fair.  Now that I’ve moved out of Connecticut, I wasn’t sure where I was going to get my fair fix.  (Although I did manage to go to the Durham Fair this year, but I hadn’t gone in at least four so double-fairing it this year is totally ok).   Anyway, while trying to figure out what to do this weekend, my friend Kelly mentioned she was going to the Topsfield Fair.  I was so in.  Luke and I went and had a great time.

We had such a good time, we even brought a little piece of the fair home with us….and here she is!

Isn’t she adorable?  I am such a sucker for animals, and when I saw that a large number of the rabbits were for sale, I couldn’t resist.  Luke was smitten too.  Her name is Isadora and she’s a 13-week-old black otter Netherland Dwarf rabbit.  I’m watching her explore our living room while writing this post.  I can’t get enough of her.  I have sat in front of her cage watching her with my camera quite a few times already…and we haven’t even had her for 24 hours.  Luke said that having our own pet makes him feel like more of an adult.  Again, fall gives me my childhood, and somehow slowly takes it away.  It’s ok though, because I get to take photos that are cuteness incarnate.

Anyway, I have an awesome recipe to share.  I love caramel…a lot, and I’ve been dying to make it ever since I got a candy thermometer.  This is the first recipe I’ve tried, and it turned out fabulous.  Plus, it has the flavors of fall, which makes it even better.  The only annoying part was cleaning the pot afterwards and cutting up the caramel into bite-size pieces. I guess I let it cool too long.

Either way, I have a huge tupperware full of individually wrapped caramel, a new bunny, and I couldn’t be happier!

Apple Cider Caramels
adapted from Poet in the Pantry via Blondies Cakes

2 cups apple cider
1 cup heavy or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup salted butter, cubed

If you don’t already have apple cider reduction on hand, you have to make it first. Pour 2 cups of apple cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes, or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Keep a measuring cup nearby in case you need to measure a few times to make sure you have the correct amount. Set aside.

Prepare your 8″ square pan by lining it with parchment paper, leaving about 1″ hanging over the edges for easy removal. You can spray the parchment paper with cooking spray or butter it, but I felt this was redundant and skipped that part.

In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.

Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.

Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cut into logs or individual pieces to the size desired and wrap in wax paper. Store in a covered container, in a cool place or in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.