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Christmas is Nearly Here

This past weekend Brent and I drove to the Chicago area to drop off some pies for my mother and visit my college friends. I spent the few days before we left making a huge mess in the kitchen preparing Christmas gifts. I made the pies for my mother: pumpkin eggnog, caramel apple, and cherry. I made all the pies and then froze and wrapped them for my mom. She’s going to thaw and bake them for the family Christmas party over the weekend.

I also made some candied nuts (I forgot to get a picture and I ate most of the leftovers :)), peppermint bark, and truffles!

The bark was super simple and I thought it would make a nice addition to the gift boxes. I just really like how festive it looks.

The truffles I made were Chocolate Truffles from the Barefoot Contessa and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffles.

The truffles were fun for me to make because they were something new, but they turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. The truffle mixtures were easy to make: Heat all the ingredients and then cool, but the rolling was difficult. If the mix was too warm, it melted all over and was impossible to shape and if it was too cool, it chipped and broke and wouldn’t get into shape. I got them all done, but it definitely took more time than I originally intended.

I wanted to make a larger variety of truffle flavors, but after my shaping difficulty, I figured two kinds were enough. The gifts were enjoyed by their recipients. My father loved the peppermint bark, my mother loved the candied nuts, and my friends Tessa and Greg enjoyed the truffles.

I have to make another pie today for Christmas with the in-laws tomorrow, but other than that I’ve just been lounging around enjoying my break. I did finally get a haircut. I’m notoriously bad at getting my haircut. I frequently go nearly a year without doing it. Yesterday’s cut was my first since February. Here’s a before & after:

Brownies Bites with Chocolate Whipped Cream

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Today is our company picnic potluck! I loved your suggestions, and it seemed like the brownie bites were a popular idea, so that’s what I did. I felt they needed a bit of extra pizzaz, so then I topped them each with a dollop of chocolate whipped cream.

HPIM3291I don’t actually have a specific brownie recipe that I’m devoted to, so like chocolate chip cookies, I pretty much just try a new one every time. I do know that I much prefer a fudgy dense moist brownie over a cake-like one. The recipe I tried this time was this one minus the fudge icing. These were definitely rich and fudgy. They taste amazing, but they are slightly sticky. They stuck to the greased pan, and to the paper cups, which was kind of a hassle, but other than that I highly recommend them.

For the chocolate whipped cream, I just whipped 1 cup of heavy cream until it was fluffy whipped cream, and then I folded in 2oz of chopped unsweetened chocolate and 1/4 cup of sugar melted together. When the brownies were completely cooled I just piped a little dollop on each, and then chilled overnight. They are so rich and yummy! I hope everyone enjoys them!

This weekend is going to be wonderful. I’ve decided. I have absolutely no school work and Brent and I are taking a long hike with a picnic tomorrow, weather permitting. Sunday we’re having Brent’s parents over for dinner. Have a great weekend!

Chocolate-Topped Cashew Toffee

AMAZING!!! I should mention that toffee is Brent’s sweet of choice. He likes those toffee baking chips in his cookies, and he loves the coffee heath bar crunch flavor of Ben & Jerry’s. So I thought a brittle or toffee candy would make a nice addition to my gift baking, to break up the monotony of all cookies. I had already decided to make some cashew brittle, when I stumbled across this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Toffee. I just decided to make the latter, with cashews. I also added more chocolate because… well, because it’s chocolate.

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I am so glad I had Brent’s help on this one! I, undoubtedly, would have burned myself with the massive quantities of boiling butter and sugar. Once the toffee is ready, it goes quick! It cools rather rapidly, so we both had to work quickly in order to spread it out as much as possible. Thus, there are no photos of that part of the process.

This is so addictive. Buttery and sweet and salty all at once. My fear now is that I may have to live with it my house longer than I anticipated. The weather reports are looking grim, and it sounds like a trip to Chicago may not be in the cards for us this weekend, so I’m not sure when I’ll be giving away all the goodies I’ve been making. My batch of the recipe made 2 12×9″ pans worth of the toffee.

CHOCOLATE-TOPPED CASHEW TOFFEE

  • 6 sticks butter, diced
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 30oz whole roasted and salted cashews
  • ~6oz chopped cashews for topping
  • 22oz dark chocolate chips
  1. Melt butter in large stockpot.
  2. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until it darkens to a golden brown color. (A lot of recipes recommend a candy thermometer, and waiting until the temp is 300, which is probably a good idea, but I could not find my candy thermometer, so I just went with my intuition to know when it was done)
  4. Add it the whole cashews and stir to coat.
  5. Pour mixture onto two buttered sheet pans. You can use bigger pans than I did for a thinner toffee.
  6. Using a silicone spatula, spread the mixture to cover the pans as quickly as possible.
  7. Wait 1 minute and dump the chocolate chips onto the toffee  in an even layer.
  8. Wait 3-5 minutes until chocolate has softened and melted slightly. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate over the toffee.
  9. Sprinkle chopped cashews onto the chocolate.
  10. Place pans in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  11. Once the toffee is hardened, use a knife to cut into smaller pieces.
  12. Enjoy!