The Daring Cooks Challenge – Eggs Benedict “an epic fail”

The Daring Cooks Challenge – Eggs Benedict “an epic fail”

Looks better than it was!

This month Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I have to apologize in advance, this month’s challenge sort of did me in.  Between being on the losing side of a battle with a brief but very painful illness and trying to prepare for the holidays I did not have time to do this properly, did not follow the really wonderful directions provided in the challenge nor did I take hardly any pictures like I usually do.  In my haste to make this after baking holiday gifts all day trying to catch up, first my Hollandaise broke as I threw in the butter with abandon (after using a pan much too large for the amount of eggs being too rushed to look for a smaller one) necessitating a quick trip to the internet to decide if “this marriage could be saved”.  I found that you can redeem the sauce by slowly adding the mixture to another egg yolk which actually worked very well and according to the food critic (aka spouse who never complains and will eat anything that fits in his mouth) it tasted like it should.  However, he further pointed out that my eggs were overdone (and they had lots of strings hanging off the sides see the picture below), the muffin was underdone and I put the muffin top on it which apparently isn’t the norm (note the strategic cropping in the top picture).  In my defense, I don’t eat any egg that is not completely and thoroughly scrambled and cooked until it starts to brown so I’ve never had eggs Benedict.  I do appreciate the challenge and think it is something that I should learn to make and will give it another try – alas,  as my daughter would say this one was “an epic fail”.

Second Try with No Top but lots of strings

Holiday Gift Recipes – Hot Fudge and Honey Caramel Sauces

Holiday Gift Recipes – Hot Fudge and Honey Caramel Sauces

Hot Fudge and Honey Caramel Holiday Gifts

Today is kind of like a rerun  but not quite – it seemed like a good time to redo my favorite holiday gift recipes, Hot Fudge Sauce and Honey Caramel Sauce as both make excellent gifts.  To make it easier, here is the giant size hot fudge recipe.


The ingredient measurements for the holiday gift giving (10 pints) are:

6 cups heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups butter

1 cup light corn syrup

4 cups sugar

1 cup water

4 1/2 lbs (72 oz) good quality chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate.   Nestles works fine and I use it sometimes for the big batches, but the better the chocolate the better the results

3 Tbs vanilla

Other than the ingredients, the big difference between this and a small batch is that because of the volume, it will take much longer for the sugar to caramelize, maybe up to 1/2 hour so don’t be discouraged that it doesn’t happen right away.

Butter and Cream

1   Combine cream, butter and salt in microwave safe bowl with a spout and heat until butter melts (approx. 2 minutes). Place the chocolate in a large heat proof bowl, a metal mixing bowl works really well.

Sugar, corn syrup and salt

2   In large sauce pan over medium heat, cook the sugar, corn syrup and water stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Coming to a boil


3  Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil then cook until a dark amber color, up to 30 minutes.  Swirl the pan a little if you must, but don’t stir or it may crystalize. Watch very carefully towards the end because the sugar can go from perfect to burnt in a few seconds.

4   Take the pan off the heat and slowly, very, very slowly, add the warm cream into the sugar, stirring briskly.  As the cream starts to cool the sugar, you can begin to pour more quickly.  This really works best with two people, one to pour (barely a drizzle at first) and one to stir.  When the cream hits the hot caramelized sugar, it will bubble up and steam so watch your hands and if you don’t pour slowly and stir quickly, you’ll get lumps.  If you were making caramel, you would stop here.

Caramel sauce poured over chocolate

5     Pour the hot caramel mixture over the chocolate and mix until smooth.  I pour through a strainer to catch any small lumps of caramel that may have formed.


Holiday Gifts – Peanut Brittle the huge gift batch

Holiday Gifts – Peanut Brittle the huge gift batch

Peanut Brittle ready to Gift

Finished one of my holiday regulars – Peanut Brittle.  It is basically a pretty simple recipe, syrup caramelized with peanuts, but can be a little tricky.  A great help is to have a candy thermometer but the most important is to remember that it is hot . . . really, really hot.  The first time I made this I was living in Germany in a tiny apartment.  The kitchen table was 24″ x 24″ and there was just enough room on each side for a chair.  While pouring the candy on to the cookie sheet, it started to drip off the sheet and the table.  Instinctively (and very wrong) I stuck my hand under to catch it so it wouldn’t get on the floor.  My entire palm blistered and believe me, I pulled it back fast!  So just a hint – be careful.

With the warnings out-of-the-way, on to the fun part!

The first step is to get your surface ready.  Usually recipes recommend using a sheet pan, but I found that foil works better (and gives a larger surface preventing burns).  Put a large towel down to protect your counter from the heat and cover it with heavy-duty foil like this:

Towlel covered with foil

Spray with cooking spray – you can butter it but I find the spray easier and I can’t tell a difference in the candy.

The ingredients are (this makes about 8 pounds)

7 cups sugar

3 1/2 cups light corn syrup

1 3/4 t salt

1 3/4 cups water

8 cups peanuts

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup plus 2 T butter

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon baking soda

In a large heavy pot (copper if you have it) over medium high heat add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, cinnamon and water until the sugar has dissolved.

Dissolving the Sugar

Next add the peanuts and set the candy thermometer.

Add peanuts

Continue cooking, stirring frequently.

Getting there but not yet

When the candy reaches 300 degrees remove from the heat, add the butter and mix until melted, then add the baking soda and stir vigorously.  You will need to work fast and it will foam up when you add the baking soda.  As soon as it is mixed, pour the candy onto the foil (carefully).

Just poured

Let the candy cool and harden, the break into pieces.

Peanut Brittle

First of the Holiday Gift Recipes – Chocolate (white and dark) with toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries

First of the Holiday Gift Recipes – Chocolate (white and dark) with toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries

White and Dark Chocolate Bark with Pecans and Dried Cherries

Here is the first and simplest of my holiday treats (and one of my dad’s favorites) and it is a good one to start with because it can be made well in advance and takes only three ingredients.  I always make a double batch (about 5 1/2 lbs) because I like to make one regular chocolate and one white chocolate and that’s what the pictures show, but the recipe is for a single batch.  Feel free to substitute whatever type of nuts and dried fruit you prefer, I’ve done it with all kinds and it is always great.

Ingredients for Chocolate Pecan Dried Cherry Bark

2.5 lbs of chocolate (white, dark or milk) as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the Ghirardelli brand because it melts and hardens perfectly and still tastes great.  Otherwise, choose a good chocolate, not a “candy” coating or chips as they will not taste as good.
1/4 lb pecans
1/4 lb dried cherries

Pecans ready to toast

Start by spreading the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Toast in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until they are lightly browned.  Check them often because they will burn easily.

Pecans Toasted

While the pecans are toasting, chop the dried cherries.

Chopped Dried Cherries

Place the dried cherries and cooled toasted pecans on a large sheet of waxed paper or foil.

Toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries

Now melt the chocolate.  Chop into smaller pieces and place in a microwave proof cup or bowl with a spout and heat for 1 minute, stir then heat again in 15 second intervals just until the chocolate melts.  If you are using regular chocolate, leave out a small amount and then add it after the rest has melted and stir it in until it melts.  That will keep the chocolate nice and shiny.

Melted Chocolate

Now the fun part!  Pour the chocolate over the nuts and fruit, spreading evenly with a spatula if necessary.

Pouring the chocolate

White Chocolate poured

When the chocolate hardens, break it into pieces and put on a plate or package for gifts.

Hardened and ready to break apart

Bark in a gift package