Category Archives: Candy

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsI am irrationally irritated by the fact that strawberries are so popular in Valentine’s Day treats. The amount of time I spend stewing over this sort of thing is more than a little ridiculous, but can you blame me? Strawberries aren’t in season right now—most of the punnets in the produce section have the flavor and texture of a styrofoam cup, but they are red and pretty, so there’s no doubt that this February crop will sell like hotcakes* for years to come.

*This is a thing my mother says. I have never said this before today. I barely understand the metaphor. Lord help me.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsPersonally, I like to bypass the off-season fruit this time of year and reach for freeze-dried strawberries instead. I buy ‘em at Trader Joe’s, whirl them into powder and fold it into all sorts of things. They deliver big fresh strawberry flavor anytime of year and I love the natural pink color they provide, especially in buttercream frosting.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsFluffy buttercream with a fresh strawberry punch? Sign. me. up ❤Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsFrosting is, of course, most traditionally used as a flourish on cakes and cookies and bars, but today, I’m putting it in the spotlight with these Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams!Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsChocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsThese bite-sized bonbons have sweet, creamy strawberry buttercream centers, a crackly coat of dark chocolate coating, and a smattering of sprinkles—I don’t know about you, but that combination of things is definitely the way to my heart.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsAdd to that that these no-bake beauties are are simple to make and keep for days on end (as long as your heavy cream stays good), and you’ve got a Valentine’s Day treat that’ll have people lining up to get your number.Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsI mean, they may only want it so that they can get more homemade candy, but is that such a bad thing?Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams
makes about 5 dozen candies

1 1.2-ounce package freeze dried strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
16 ounces dark chocolate (not chocolate chips)
sprinkles (optional)

Place freeze dried strawberries in a food processor and process until they are powder, about 30 seconds.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in confectioner’s sugar, strawberry powder, and salt. Mixture may be alarmingly crumbly—this is normal. Add vanilla and heavy cream. Beat until thick and very fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface of the frosting. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to a day.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove chilled frosting from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Scoop frosting by the teaspoon, roll into balls, and place on prepared pan. Coating your palms in confectioner’s sugar will help the rolling process. Chill rolled frosting uncovered for one hour.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to chop chocolate. Place in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring between, until smooth. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool five minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove buttercream balls from the refrigerator.

To dip, drop one ball of buttercream into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat buttercream in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the buttercream on the prepared pan. Immediately top with sprinkles, if using. Continue until all buttercreams have been coated and topped. Chocolate may be re-warmed in 15 second increments as needed.

Chill buttercreams for at least fifteen minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry ButtercreamsChocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

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Monster Carmelitas

Monster CarmelitasWell, there goes one more January full of savory recipes (well, mostly savory). Loads of good weeknight meals, my favorite no-slow-cooker pulled pork, Cornmeal Biscuits, and fancied up pigs in blankets—all good things ❤ Monster CarmelitasI’ve gotta be real with you though: I’m glad to be back to making desserts. The annual sugar break was good for my mind and body, but I really missed serving up sweets! I’ve got some great new Valentine’s Day-appropriate recipes coming your way next week and there may be a couple more weeknight meals in the near future, but first…Monster Carmelitas.Monster CarmelitasY’all, these are a Super Bowl dessert, if I’ve ever seen one! Delicious and festive enough to celebrate a win, and just decadent enough for eating your feelings during a loss. Also, they’re handheld and don’t require anything more than a small plate or a napkin, so they’re perfect for snacking on in front of the TV 🙂 Monster CarmelitasThese simple-to-make bars are flavored with the popular “monster” combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, and oats. Oh, and they’re jazzed up with a layer of soft caramel in the middle. YUM.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas are a texture lover’s dream! The egg-free (!) cookie layers are buttery and a little crumbly with melty chocolate and crispy, crackly M&Ms candy coating, while the caramel layer tows the line between sliceable and pleasantly gooey.Monster CarmelitasI mean, does dessert get better than this?!Monster CarmelitasMonster CarmelitasNo. No, it does not.Monster Carmelitas

Looking for more “monster” treats? Check out my Monster Blondies! For more carmelitas, check out this Salty Pretzel variation ❤

Monster Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter
2/3 cup M&Ms candy
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
6 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease heavily with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, light brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Combine butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it into the dry ingredients—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Set aside.

Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press about 2 1/2 cups of the dough into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the caramel.

Bake full pan for 23 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack,

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas

Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeOver the course of the next twenty days, there will come a moment where you’re glad to have this Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge recipe in your back pocket.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeBecause it really is easy. Like six ingredients easy.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeNo boiling sugar, no candy thermometer easy.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeMake it in 20 minutes in a double boiler or—even easier—the microwave…easy.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeBut nobody will know that you made these little morsels of holiday magic without having to think too hard, or that the batch makes enough for multiple holiday gifts (just add cute bags or tins), so you didn’t have to overextend yourself.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeAnd nobody is going to bite into this rich, dense, silky fudge and think “I bet he/she/they made this with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips instead of the ‘traditional’ way.” Nope.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeIn fact, I guarantee you that all anybody will be thinking is how to get another piece of this double-layer minty coffee confection into their faces as soon as possible.Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge
Looking for more peppermint mocha? Check out these cookies!

Looking for more easy holiday candy? See here and here.

Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge
makes one 9×13-inch pan

Mocha Layer:
18 ounces (3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
5 teaspoons espresso granules (I use Medaglia d’Oro)
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (not mint extract)

Peppermint Layer:
18 ounces (3 cups) white chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (not mint extract)

Garnish:
4 candy canes or 10 starlight mints, crushed (I prefer starlight mints)

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on the two long sides, and grease again. Set aside.

To make on the stove:

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Make the mocha layer. Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and espresso granules in the heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water. Use a silicone spatula and/or whisk to stir mixture until chips are melted and fudge is even in color. It will be thick. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into an even layer all the way to the corners. Freeze full pan while you make the peppermint layer.

Wash the heatproof bowl and dry well. Return pot to a simmer.

Combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water. Use a silicone spatula and/or whisk to stir mixture until chips almost all are melted and fudge is even in color. It will be thinner than the mocha mixture. Remove from heat. Whisk in peppermint extract and continue until mixture is totally smooth.

Remove pan from the freezer. Spread peppermint mixture over the top of the mocha layer, smoothing it all the way to the edges. Garnish the top with crust candy canes or starlight mints.

To make in the microwave:

Make the mocha layer. Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and espresso granules in a medium microwave safe mixing bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until chips are melted and fudge is thick and even in color. Stir in peppermint extract. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into an even layer all the way to the corners. Freeze full pan while you make the peppermint layer.

Wash the microwave safe bowl and dry well.

Combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in the bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring/whisking in between, until almost all chips are melted and fudge is even in color. Whisk in peppermint extract and continue until mixture is totally smooth. Mixture will be thinner than the mocha layer.

Remove pan from the freezer. Spread peppermint mixture over the top of the mocha layer, smoothing it all the way to the edges. Garnish the top with crust candy canes or starlight mints.

Both methods:

Refrigerate fudge for at least 1 hour. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edges of the pan. Use parchment overhang to lift fudge onto a cutting board.

Use a greased knife to slice fudge into 1-inch pieces. Wipe the knife clean between cuts.

Fudge is best kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but may be kept at room temperature for up to 5 days. Candy cane/starlight mint garnish will melt over time.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeEasy Peppermint Mocha FudgeEasy Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass CookiesHello there! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving break. I had a wonderful time in Massachusetts and Rhode Island with 2/3 of my immediate family, but am happy to be home for a few weeks to work on all sorts of holiday goodness! I’ve got loads of great posts headed your way before December 25th, but this first cookie recipe of the season, which benefits Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, might be my most important post of the whole year.Stained Glass CookiesIf that organization sounds familiar, it’s because I supported them last year too as a participant in The Sweetest Season. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that encourages people to raise funds for pediatric cancer research by making cookies and sharing them with friends and family. The goal is to raise funds to facilitate innovative treatments, one cookie at a time. Many supporters (AKA “Good Cookies”) choose to have bake sales or cookie swaps, but I’m participating with a group of bloggers by posting new cookies recipes and donating directly. I made my donation on Giving Tuesday, but if you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.Stained Glass CookiesThere’s no easy way to transition from writing about pediatric cancer to writing about anything else, so please excuse this clunky attempt. Now that I’ve made my donation to this wonderful organization, it’s time to talk about holiday cookies, namely these stunning Stained Glass Cookies!Stained Glass CookiesThese were one of the first Christmas cookies I ever made. My mother didn’t (and doesn’t) bake, but once when we were little, she dropped my sister and me at a kids’ cooking school for a day of holiday treats. While I don’t remember any other cookies we made that day, I do remember crushing hard candies and watching them transform in the oven into beautiful “stained glass.”
Stained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesBut I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’ve never heard of Stained Glass Cookies, they’re nothing more than roll-out sugar cookies (in this case, my Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies) with the centers cut out and filled with crushed hard candy. As they bake, the candy melts into a thin, transparent sheet, similar to a stained glass window. Neat, huh?Stained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesAnd freaking beautiful, am I right?!Stained Glass Cookies

These cookies are simple to make. The recipe is straightforward enough that there’s no need for a tutorial, but I’ve got a few notes for you anyway. Because of course I do.

  • You can use any cookie cutters you like, permitting that they are in graduated sizes.
  • I used crushed Jolly Ranchers candy here. I chose to only use one flavor of candy per cookie, but feel free to mix and match to your holiday heart’s content.
  • These are a great cookie to make with kids, permitting you don’t mind them getting a little sugared up (in which case you probably shouldn’t be making cookies anyway and you may be on the wrong website 🙂 ). Just make the dough ahead and let them help cut and fill. I made these frequently in my nanny days and they were always a big hit.

Stained Glass CookiesAll that said, I hope you’re as excited for holiday baking as I am! Here’s to a season of sweets, treats, and doing kind things for our fellows…you know, like putting a few dollars toward a good cause ❤ Or making a batch of Stained Glass Cookies for people you love.Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Cookies
makes about 5 dozen medium cookies

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 oz (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 12 ounce bag Jolly Ranchers or other hard candy, crushed
sparkling sugar, optional

Special Equipment:
rolling pin
graduated cookie cutters

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cream in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Divide dough into quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Take one quarter of chilled dough at a time, roll it to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters. Place cut cookies at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Use smaller cookie cutters to cut out centers of cut cookies. Remove center dough and fill Cookie centers with a few pieces of crushed candy. Sprinkle exposed cookie dough with sparkling sugar, if desired.

Bake cookies 7-8 minutes, rotating top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the halfway point. Cookies are done when dough is no longer wet-looking and centers are bubbly. Let cookies cool on the pans for ten minutes before carefully peeling cookies away parchment and removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, cutting, filling, and baking with any remaining dough.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. Separate layers of cookies with wax paper.
Stained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesStained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Cookies

Monster Blondies

Monster BlondiesRemember that huge, ridiculous M&Ms Surprise Cake I posted last week? It’s long gone.Monster Blondies You know what’s still taking up space in my kitchen? This comically large container of M&Ms. It’s made it through two of those cakes, a batch of cookies and lots of late night snacks, and it’s still kickin’.Monster Blondies Also taking up space in my kitchen? Three different jars of peanut butter. THREE. And they’re all different brands. Just…what? I really need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all my baking supplies so I’m not compelled to pick up peanut butter every time I see it on sale.Monster Blondies So, what does one do with all that peanut butter and that huge container of M&Ms? Add some oats and make Monster Blondies, of course!Monster Blondies What makes these blondies so…monstrous? Well, they’re a riff on Monster Cookies, a sort of “everything but the kitchen sink” cookie that, at its most basic, contains peanut butter, oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips.Monster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesThe original cookies are terrific, but skipping the cookie dough and tossing all those ingredients into blondie batter is absolutely the way to go! The resulting blondies have all the flavors and textures from their namesake recipe, but with an extra thick and chewy peanut butter base.Monster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesNot only that, but blondies are way easier to make than cookies—this recipe comes together with just one bowl and a silicone spatula! And, of course, they don’t require baking in batches. Monster Blondies are ready to come out of the oven just 40 minutes after you start making the batter!Monster BlondiesOnce the blondies have cooled slice them up and dig in! You’ll love the soft & chewy blondie base, the slight saltiness from the peanut butter, the texture from the oats and crackly candy coating, and tons of chocolate. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the very best kind of mid-week pick-me-up ❤ Monster BlondiesMonster Blondies
makes 16 blondies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural-style)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms candy

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang on two sides. Grease with butter. Set aside.

Place butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Melt together in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Transfer to a medium large mixing bowl. Stir in light brown sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Fold in oats, followed by chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Spread the blondie batter in prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), or until turning golden at the edges. Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Use foil to lift blondies out of pan. Peel off foil and transfer blondies to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Serve.

Leftover blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.Monster Blondies