Honey Caramel Apples (some with white chocolate or nuts)

Honey Caramel Apples (some with white chocolate or nuts)

Honey Caramel Apples

 
Here is a repost for Halloween, the best time for caramel apples!
I know, enough with the honey caramel, but I just couldn’t resist one more time.  Caramel apples are one of my favorites and Daughter asked me to send some caramel for her and friends after seeing the earlier recipes, so I made another batch.  This time it is not a sauce but a full caramel that you can use to dip the apples or form into squares to eat or give as candies for gifts.
When making caramel, the temperature you cook it to determines whether it is a thin (220) or thick sauce (240) or a soft (260)or hard (300) candy.  A candy thermometer is a must, but you can get one pretty much anywhere that has kitchen equipment, including most grocery stores for just a few dollars.
The Ingredients are very simple:
1 cup honey
1 cup whipping cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 apples (place them in the refrigerator the night before so they will be well chilled – it will help the caramel harden quickly so it will stick better)
Chopped Nuts (any kind you like – I used toasted macadamia)
Chocolate (I always use Ghirardelli Candy Making and Dipping Chocolate – this time I used the white)
6 craft sticks
If you don’t want to make your own caramel, you can always use ones from the store (of course it’s not nearly as good as these).

More

Wash the apples well to get off any wax or dirt.  Put the sticks in each apple.

Apples with Sticks

Make the Caramel
Use a pan much larger than you would think, the caramel bubbles up so use a big pan.  Add the cream to the pan and over medium heat bring almost to a boil.  Add the honey and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the temperature reaches 255-260 (if you plan on using them as candies I would go to 260-265 so they will be a little firmer).   Fill the sink with ice water and as soon as it reaches the proper temperature, immediately put the pan in the cold water being sure not to get any water in the pan.  Stir the caramel for a minute or two until it thickens but not so long that it is firm (if you try an apple and the caramel drips off, let it cool a little longer).  Take the pan out of the water and dip the apples, placing them on buttered wax paper.  If you have room in the fridge or outside if it is cooler (that isn’t really an option yet here – still way to hot) to set the caramel.

Honey Caramel ready for dipping

Dipped

Once the caramel has hardened enough to lift them off the paper, dip in the chopped nuts, chocolate, coconut, chocolate chips, etc. pressing them gently into the caramel.  If you prefer you can dip them in the add-ons immediately, but I think they look better if you let them firm up a little first, then you can press them in so it sticks better.

Honey Caramel Apples

Easter Egg Cake Balls

Easter Egg Cake Balls

Easter Egg Cake Balls

Since I’ve been quite busy lately, I’m taking advantage of timing and reposting one of my favorites for Easter.  These were a big hit and I’m sure I’ll be making them again this year!
Although I don’t quite get it as I guess I’m just not that much of a cake fan, cake balls are very popular around here and I do have to admit these are pretty cute.  I mentioned to college Daughter that I was going to make some and her exact words were “send them here, send them all here” and I’ve made them for several friends, who all seem to love them.  I did have some cheesecake pops at a party recently and those are going to be my next batch as they were amazing.
The basic idea is simple, mush up a cake and icing, roll it and dip in chocolate.  The best site for ideas is Bakerella, she even has a cookbook out just for them.  Previously I made some simple chocolate ones for a birthday party following Bakerella’s instructions.  This time I used a cherry chip cake mix (I usually make my cakes from scratch, but Daughter had left this box of mix here from her last visit so I decided to use it) and some cream cheese icing I had leftover from a birthday cake.

Ingredients

Ingredients:
Cherry Chip Cake mix with eggs and oil (or homemade cake)
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (added to the cake batter for a little extra flavor)
2 cups cream cheese icing (homemade or purchased)
Dipping chocolate white and dark (I prefer Ghirardelli’s candy coating because I think it has the best quality but it’s not always easy to find.  Sam’s Club carries it around the holidays so I stock up but you can also use chocolate melts which you can even get pre-colored)

Cake

First bake the cake and cool completely.

Crumbled Cake

The crumble the cake in a large bowl.

Adding the icing

Add the icing.

Cake and icing mixed up

Smash it together and form into a thick disk – a spatula works but hands work better.  Wrap in plastic and put in the refrigerator for about an hour to stiffen up.

Best spoon for making the balls
Making the eggs

This is a great spoon for making the balls or cookies.  It is a hard plastic with a rubber bottom so the portions are even and you can easily push the dough out.  It comes in several sizes and I’ve seen it at most kitchen stores, the grocery store and even at the dollar store.  For this, I used the Tablespoon size, rolling them into egg shapes and placing them on a cookie sheet.

Eggs rolled

As you can probably tell, I’m not into perfection, I just don’t have time or the patience.  I admire those who do and if you are one of them, you can make them really great.  Some of my eggs aren’t shaped exactly right but they still look pretty egg like and they don’t last long anyway.

Wrap and freeze

Next wrap and place them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Stand
Dipping
Tapping off the excess
Hardening

I have tried two methods of dipping, using a toothpick and putting them on a styrofoam floral stand that I got from the dollar store and just using a fork and putting them on waxed paper.  I find that the fork works better for me but they each have good and bad parts.  In order to get them to stay on the toothpick, I had to freeze them, which then caused the chocolate to crack as it hardened but they seemed to have the best shape if you can keep them on the toothpick.  Any little drips on the bottom can be trimmed with a sharp paring knife.

Fork Dipping

I switched to “warmer” balls on the fork letting them harden on a piece of waxed paper, which seemed to solve the falling off/cracking problem and seemed to be faster.  It sometimes leaves a bit of a flat base, but that is easily trimmed with a sharp paring knife or you can just leave it and serve them with that side down.  I used both white and dark chocolate, adding gel food color to the white to make a couple different colors.  Make sure you keep the chocolate warm, if it starts to thicken heat for a few seconds in the microwave to keep it easier to dip.  When it gets thick it also makes them more likely to crack (I’ve learned these things from the error part of trial and error).  The good news is that I learned the decorating can cover up the cracks pretty well!

Decorating

Here they are after the first round of decorating. Note there are cracks and not so perfect spots, but those will be fixed soon!  I used the spray on color on some of the white ones which made a sort of marbled effect that I liked.   I tried someone’s suggestion for painting corn syrup on then putting sprinkles, but I just didn’t like the way it looked and am not that much of a sprinkle fan anyway so I ended up using the colored white chocolate instead.  Plus, that worked perfectly to fill in any cracks.  I always use a small plastic squeeze bottle when decorating with chocolate, you can get them from Wilton at the craft store or pretty much anywhere and they are very inexpensive.  Just melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.  Depending on how much you do at a time it can take from 1-2 minutes.  I start with 1 minute, then stir and do 15 second increments until it is melted, then pour it into the squeeze bottle.

Looking Better

Again, those of you who are more creative and have more patience could do a much better decorating job.

Molding and trimming the chocolate baskets

I also used a chocolate mold (from Wilton that I got at Wal-Mart) to make some little baskets.  You just melt the chocolate, put it into the bottom of the mold then put the top.  Using the same sharp paring knife I trimmed off any excess before I unmolded them as sometimes it was hard to judge just how much chocolate to put into the mold – the directions on the package just say fill “half full” but there are no markings so you just have to get a feel for it.

Eggs in Baskets

Here are a couple in the baskets.

Birthday Brownie Cake Pops on Glo Sticks

Birthday Brownie Cake Pops on Glo Sticks

Chocolate Brownie Cake Pops on Glo Sticks

The birthdays just keep coming.  This time my friend’s son who is fond of chocolate cake pops.  I tried sending over white chocolate/strawberry cake ones once and they just didn’t make the grade (a polite thanks but next time could you make all chocolate) so we’re back to chocolate.  I did give a little twist on this one and they may have changed my mind.  As I’ve mentioned before in the past I haven’t really understood the appeal of the cake pops, but these were pretty good!  Instead of the usual cake and icing for the filling, I made a really fudgy brownie and slightly underbaked it.  They didn’t even need the icing and the texture was perfect for rolling the balls.  Lot’s of good quality chocolate in the mix kept them firm enough to dip and the taste was wonderful.  To make them special, instead of using regular sticks, I found glo sticks that were just the right size and although I did manage to start a few prematurely glowing, the majority made it just fine and should provide some entertainment after the eating.
I’m not going to go through the whole process of making these but you can refer to my earlier posts on Easter Egg Cake Balls for step by step pictures.  Here is the Brownie Tart recipe I used from Ina Garten on the FoodNetwork website.  The only change is that I did underbake it by about 5 minutes and didn’t use the glaze.  I will definitely be making this one again!
Here’s how they looked after I rolled them.  Notice the neat reflections on the counter!

Chocolate Brownie Cake Pops rolled and ready to dip

Dipped and hardening

Done!

White Peaches and Raspberries with White Chocolate Mousse Tart

White Peaches and Raspberries with White Chocolate Mousse Tart

Peach and Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse Tart

This is a simple way to use those wonderful fresh fruits.  I had some excellent white peaches, soft and really juicy, and great raspberries recently so for a dinner with friends I made this wonderful tart.

Peach

I did manage to destroy it on the trip over and ended up with a giant blob.  It was wonderful tasting but not so pretty anymore, so I can say that I wouldn’t recommend it to take anywhere – eat it at home and don’t try to take it out in 110 degrees!
Printable Peach and Raspberry White Chocolate Tart
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package frozen puff pastry dough (the type I buy comes with 2 rectangles, I only used one but you could use another layer between the peaches and raspberries if you wanted)
  • 3 c Heavy cream
  • 12 ounces white chocolate melted (or 8 ounces of milk, semi-sweet or dark chocolate)
  • 4 fresh peaches sliced thinly and dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries

First thaw  the pastry dough.  I wanted a circle because I thought the peaches would arrange nicely so I rolled it and cut into a 10 inch circles but you could just use the dough in the rectangle shape it comes in.  I baked the scraps  of dough as well to use as decoration on the top.  Place the dough on cookie sheets, prick with a fork and bake according to the package directions until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
In medium-sized microwave safe bowl melt the white chocolate and 1/2 cup cream on high, stirring and checking at 30 seconds, then at 15 second intervals until white chocolate is almost melted.  Stir until white chocolate is completely melted. Cool to room temperature.
In chilled med bowl place remaining cream. Beat with mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold half the whipped cream into white chocolate. Fold in remaining cream just until blended.
Place one layer of the pastry on the serving dish.  Spoon a thick layer of the mousse mixture on (a little less than half), then layer the peaches, saving a few slices for decoration. Spoon on another layer of the mousse, reserving a small amount for decoration and arrange the raspberries on top.  Use the pieces of the pastry dough as decoration.

Fresh Dark Cherry Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Dark Cherry Cheesecake with Chocolate Chips

Fresh Dark Cherry Cheesecake with Chocolate Chips

Since yesterday was National Cheesecake Day, and cheesecake is a big family favorite around here, another cheesecake it was.  I had a big container of really nice dark cherries and of course, chocolate goes with anything so I had to throw some of that in.  I used my favorite cheesecake recipe modified a little and cut down some since my healthy eating plan for the year has already suffered from a significant lack of participation.  The original recipe from The Joy of Cheesecake (my very favorite cookbook) says it makes a 10″ cake, but I always have enough left to make that and another small one so I cut the recipe down and it is just right for an 8″ springform.
Printable Recipe Fresh Dark Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake with Chocolate Chips
Crust:
I made a very simple crust using crushed white chocolate peanut butter cookies (son’s favorite so I had some around).  You can use graham crackers or any other crust you like.  If I’d had them, I’d probably have used crushed Oreo’s.  I very rarely make an “official crust” with the butter etc. patted in nicely but instead usually just crush up some cookies, cracker’s or nuts and sprinkle on the bottom of the (vegetable sprayed) pan in a light layer.
Cheesecake filling:
Ingredients (all should be at room temperature):
1 1/4 pounds cream cheese
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
3 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips
Procedure:
Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.
In a large bowl (or the mixer bowl) beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy, add the sugar and flour and mix until smooth.
Mix in the yolk and eggs one at a time until mixed thoroughly.
Stir in the cream and mix slightly, just until incorporated.
Place the chocolate chips on top of the crust and pour the cheesecake mixture over them.  Bake at 475 for 12 minutes, then lower the temperature in the oven to 200 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is set but still jiggles slightly in the middle.  Start checking at 30 minutes.
Cheesecake Topping
4 cups of fresh pitted cherries sliced in half
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl mix together the corn starch, lemon juice and water until smooth. Place cherries in a saucepan over medium heat, add the liquid and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the sauce thickens.  Cool while the cheesecake bakes, and when the cheesecake has cooled, the topping can be spooned on the entire cake, or on the individual slices when they are served.

Fresh Dark Cherry Cheesecake with Chocolate Chips

Cranberry Cookie Bars:  what to do with that leftover cranberry sauce

Cranberry Cookie Bars: what to do with that leftover cranberry sauce

Cranberry Cookie Bars

I always have left over cranberry sauce and never know what to do with it.  Due to my preference for sweets and distinct lack of interest in turkey (or any other kind) of sandwiches that only use a teaspoon or two at a time anyway, it is always a challenge to use up.  I’ve finally found something that tastes great and uses a lot at once – cookies!
These aren’t really anything original, mostly replacing the traditional raspberry jam with the cranberry sauce in a very simple cookie crumble dough, but it was a nice combination and looks very festive.
Printable Recipe for Cranberry Cookie Bars
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
3 cups powdered sugar
3 cups ground toasted pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 cups butter
1/12 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups cranberry sauce
Procedure:
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a 9 x 13 pan, place a piece of foil across the bottom and spray with vegetable spray. (I do have better pans but of course I like to use the ugly one – oh well didn’t really notice until I saw the picture.)

Make a foil lifter

In a large bowl stir all the ingredients except cranberry sauce together mixing well. Using your fingers, make sure that there are “lumps” and pieces to give it some texture.

Mix

Pour all but 2 cups of the dough into the pan and flatten it out using the heel of your hand or a cup. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Press dough in the pan

Cover with the cranberry sauce.

Add the filling

Crumble the remaining dough on top, keeping various sized chunks and leaving some open space.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Crumble the dough on top

Cool then remove from the pan using the foil handles and cut into pieces. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve.

Cranberry Cookie Bars

Enjoy!