Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oatmeal Dulche de Leche Cookies

I saw this recipe on Pleasant Home. It was created by Robin at All Things Heart & Home and shared for the recent Christmas Cookie Exchange on Pleasant Home. I bookmarked it right away and new that this recipe would haunt me until I made it. The cookies are very rich, so you can't eat too many (unless you want to go into sugar shock). And I just realized I forgot to count how many cookie-sandwiches this was at least 3 dozen maybe 4.

You will need one jar of marshmallow creme and a can of dulche de leche:
The dulche de leche can be found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store. To make the marshmallow creme easier to spread, put it in the microwave for 10 seconds and stir.

The cookies spread out a lot. I used my smallest cookie scoop, but you can use a rounded teaspoonful if you don't have one. Slightly flatten the dough so it spreads evenly while baking:

When the cookies are cool, you will spread a little caramel on one cookie and a little marshmallow creme on another and then press them together:
Don't use too much marshmallow creme or it will ooze out and make a big mess.

For the chocolate drizzle, you melt chocolate chips in the microwave. I found the least messy way to do the drizzle is to put the Ziploc bag inside a cup, folding the excess over the sides and then pour the chocolate in:

Then you can twist it, snip off the corner, and squeeze with very little mess:

I suggest leaving the cookies on the wire rack, but put a piece of wax paper or some paper towels underneath to catch any drips. If you need the chocolate to harden quickly, just pop 'em in the fridge for 15 - 20 minutes.

from All Things Heart & Home

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups old fashioned oats

1 jar marshmallow creme
1 can dulche de leche
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cream together butter and both sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Blend in flour and baking soda. Add oats. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart, slightly flatten with fingers, and bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheet 2-3 minutes before removing to wire rack.

When cookies are cool, make sandwiches by spreading a teaspoon of caramel on one cookie and a teaspoon of marshmallow creme on another. Press cookies together.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips for 20 seconds. Stir. Heat for 10 seconds more, then stir again until completely smooth. Pour chocolate into a freezer-weight Ziploc bag, snip corner, and drizzle chocolate over cookies. Allow chocolate to firm up. Can be put in fridge to firm. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

English Toffee

When I lived in Georgia I had a friend who would bring me homemade toffee every Christmas. It was so darn good and I would hide it so I could have it all to myself. Well, this is the third Christmas since we moved away and no one has stepped up and given me toffee, the nerve. So I figured I should finally make my own.

I tried making toffee once. Actually several times. And it never turned out. I think I can blame a few different things for my failures: low quality butter, humidity, etc. Tonight I finally had success and I owe it to The Idea Room's recipe. And good quality butter. And a perfectly calibrated candy thermometer.

Here are some tips for making toffee:
  1. Use good, name brand butter. NO Wal-mart butter here. It has a higher water content and will not turn out right. This recipe calls for salted butter, but if all you have is unsalted, add a pinch of salt at the end.
  2. Calibrate your thermometer. Our Best Bites has a tutorial here.
  3. Use a wooden spoon. The first batch I made I used a plastic spoon and it started to melt. Not cool.
  4. Be careful. Be very careful. This stuff is hot and will melt your skin off! Two words: oven mitts.
  5. Use a heavy duty saucepan. This reduces the chances of hot spots forming and burning your candy.
  6. Line your cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. It makes it easier to break the toffee in pieces. And there's less clean up.
adapted from The Idea Room

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 - 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (depending on how much chocolate you like)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds or pecans

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a heavy saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thermometer reads 290 degrees F. (Watch it carefully once it reaches 280 degrees because the temp will increase quickly and you don't want this to burn). Pour onto cookie sheet and quickly spread to desired thickness. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over warm toffee. Let sit 1-2 minutes or until softened and gently spread melted chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle with almonds and lightly press so the almonds stick. Chill in refrigerator until hard. Crack into pieces and store in an airtight container. Makes 1 1/2 pounds.


Extra nutty: Quickly stir in an additional 1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds into toffee before pouring onto cookie sheet.

Salty/sweet: Sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt instead of almonds.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Strawberry-Cranberry Jam

I made this jam last year as gifts for extended family. It was my first time making jam and I did okay, but I like the way it turned out better this year. I've adapted the recipe and the flavor seems better.

If this is your first time making jam, Allrecipes has great information here. And read the comments section for even more helpful tips. It's really not that hard, just a little time consuming. But this jam makes it worth it!

Fresh cranberries are not available until fall/winter at which point the price of strawberries is ridiculous. I just bought a 4 lb. bag of whole frozen strawberries at Walmart for $6. I used a little over 3/4 of the bag, I think. Or you can freeze your cranberries now and make the jam in the spring when strawberries are fresh and cheap.

I got four 1-pint jars and five 1/2-pint jars with this recipe, but I had a little left over and I really think you could get 6-7 1-pint jars.

adapted from Sparkling Holiday Jam on

2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) strawberries, coarsely chopped
1 (12 oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 (1.75 oz) packages powdered fruit pectin
1 tsp. margarine (to prevent the jam from foaming too much)
4 lbs. white sugar

Sterilize jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Let simmer while making jam.

In a large saucepan combine strawberries, cranberries, pectin, and margarine. Bring to a boil. Stir in sugar and return to a boil. Cook for 1 minute; remove from heat.

Quickly fill jars to within 1/2 inch from top. Wipe rims clean and put on lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Let cool on the counter for 24 hours.

Lids should be compressed - if you can "pop" the lid, put jam in fridge and consume within two weeks.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hot Cocoa on a Stick

I was a little hesitant to share this because it's my Christmas gift to extended family this year and posting it will ruin the surprise. But I thought about it, and figured some of you might want to make these yourselves to hand out to teachers, crossing guards, hair stylists, etc. You can make individual ones like this:

I bought small treat bags at Michael's, put the chocolate end inside and added a few marshmallows. Then I secured the bag with a red twist tie and tied the tag (with instructions on back) with a ribbon. For the family, I put several into a large treat bag, added some marshmallows and tied the bag closed with ribbon and a tag. I then put them into the cute felt buckets you see below with a little paper filler to keep them snug.

I got the buckets at Target's Dollar Spot. Aren't they cute?

The recipe comes from Giver's Log. I do suggest checking out her post because she gives a lot of great advice about what chocolate to use and other molding ideas (like ice cube trays or small paper cups). I knew I was making a lot of these, so I bought Wilton's Brownie Bite silicone mold at Michael's (I had a lot of 40% off coupons, can you tell?), which has 24 squares. I estimate each square equals about 3/4 of an ounce. One batch made 11-12 squares.

I started out using popsicle sticks only to discover they aren't super great when it comes to stirring. So I switched to plastic spoons. You can leave them to set at room temperature or you can speed up the process by sticking them in the fridge. Once they are hard, you can just bend the mold and they pop right out.

The chocolates I used (because it's more economical than Ghiradelli's) are Baker's Semi-Sweet:

And the large Hershey's Symphony bar (the plain milk chocolate one - this photo says it's 5 oz. but I'm 99% sure they aren't 5 oz. anymore, more like 4.75 or something like that):

The Baker's bar is usually found in the baking aisle and the Symphony bar is in the candy aisle. The best prices I've found on both are at Wal-mart. I wasn't sure which would make better hot chocolate so I made one batch with just Bakers and one batch with just Symphony. Bakers was a little too...semi-sweet and didn't melt very well. The Symphony melted great but lacked flavor. So I compromised and combined them. And then I decided I wanted to dress it up a bit with peppermint. I've included instructions at the bottom.

from Giver's Log

8 oz. chocolate, chopped (4 oz. [4 squares] Bakers + one large Symphony bar)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Sift together the cocoa and sugar in a small bowl (this is an important step - make sure you sift it - use a wire mesh strainer and a spoon if you have to).

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave on high, stirring after the first 30 seconds. Microwave 30 seconds more; stir. Microwave about 15 seconds more and stir (there will still be lumps of chocolate at this point but that is okay, just keep stirring it until it's all smooth).

Stir in half the cocoa mixture until combined. Stir in remaining half (this will take some elbow grease - the chocolate will be the consistency of a thick cookie dough).

Divide chocolate into molds (I just used a spoon). Insert spoons or sticks. Allow to firm up at room temp or refrigerate. Remove from molds.

PEPPERMINT VARIATION (this is enough for 8 hot cocoa batches):

12 oz. bag white candy melts
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 box peppermint candy canes, crushed

Melt candy in microwave-safe bowl according to package instructions. Stir in extract (if candy freezes - or turns lumpy - add a teaspoon of shortening or vegetable oil). Dip hot cocoa "sticks" first in melted candy, then crushed candy canes. Lay on waxed or parchment paper until firm.


Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon to sifted cocoa and powdered sugar before stirring into chocolate. Later dip "sticks" in melted chocolate then dip in crushed red hot candies.


The amount of milk will vary depending on the amount of chocolate in your mold (2 Tbsp. = 1 oz.). Essentially it's 1 cup of milk to 1 oz. of chocolate. So, since my molds were essentially 3/4 of an ounce, these are my instructions:

Heat 3/4 cup (6 oz). milk in mug until steaming. Stir in chocolate until melted. Add marshmallows and enjoy!

These may be stored in an airtight container up to one year. Chocolate may "bloom" or lighten in color - this will not affect quality or taste.