Category Archives: Candy

Caramel Pretzel Pie

Caramel Pretzel PieHave you ever seen the movie Waitress? It’s one of my very favorites—it’s about a small town pie waitress who is saddled with the worst sort of husband and a lifestyle of which she doesn’t see a clear way out. Her passion is pie, and throughout the film she thinks in pie recipes with very specific names: Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, Bad Baby Pie, Lonely Chicago Pie…you get the idea. I won’t ruin it further. You can and should stream it on Prime for $4.Caramel Pretzel PieAlternatively, you can come to NYC and see Waitress the musical, which has been running on Broadway for three years and is every bit as good as the film that inspired it! I nabbed tickets when my dear friend, Tad, was here a few weeks ago and I already want to see it again.Caramel Pretzel PieWhen we left the theater and headed for the subway, I knew two things:

  1. I wanted to download the soundtrack immediately.
  2. I needed to make pie.

Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieDone and DONE. Caramel Pretzel Pie, y’all. It’s sweet, salty, and full of creamy caramel flavor!Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieOne great thing about Caramel Pretzel Pie? It’s almost-no-bake. I had originally intended for this beauty to be oven-free, but the idea of a slightly-toasty pretzel crust won out. I think you’ll agree that the ten minutes of oven time required to set the crust are absolutely worth it.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieAnother great thing? This pie is very quick and simple to make, especially if you make your caramel sauce ahead. You could swap in a store-bought caramel sauce if that’s more your speed (I hear Trader Joe’s has a good one), but homemade is super easy to make and is far better than anything I’ve ever found in a grocery store.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieThe creamy, cloud-like caramel filling comes together in minutes and has a nice tang from a hit of cream cheese.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieAfter a few hours chilling in the fridge, the pie is finished off with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a few broken pretzels.Caramel Pretzel PieIt’s so delicious, it’s ridiculous. I always love a salty-sweet dessert, but the toasty pretzel crust, creamy filling, and the teetering-on-the-brink-of-burnt (-but-in-a-good-way) flavor of the caramel really make this pie something special.Caramel Pretzel PieAll it’s missing is a very specific name. Somehow Feminist Movie/Musical Inspo Pie doesn’t sound quite right 😂 Maybe you can come up with something when you make this for every cookout this summer. Believe me–this one is a guaranteed hit.Caramel Pretzel Pie

Caramel Pretzel Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

Pretzel Crust:
1 1/3 cup finely-crushed salted pretzels (I used 63 thin pretzels)
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

3/4 cup heavy cream, very cold
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup caramel sauce (recipe below), room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Topping:
3/4 cup heavy cream, very cold
2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
caramel sauce (recipe below)
broken salted pretzels

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together finely-crushed salted pretzels, brown sugar, and melted butter until combined. Transfer mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Bake 10 minutes to set. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not overwhip. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar and salt until fluffy. Add caramel sauce and vanilla and mix until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Working in 2 installments, carefully fold in remaining whipped cream until combined. Transfer to chilled pie crust. Chill for 3 hours or overnight.

Make topping. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream. Drizzle with caramel sauce and scatter broken pretzel pieces over the top, if desired.

Slice and serve. Leftover pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for a few days. Broken pretzel topping will soften over time.

Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Place sugar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk sugar until the sugar melts and turns a deep copper color. Whisk in butter until completely incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in heavy cream. Caramel will bubble violently, but will quickly relax into a smooth sauce. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Transfer sauce to a jar and let cool to room temperature.

Leftover caramel sauce should be kept in the refrigerator. Microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring in between, to reheat.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel Pie

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Easter Basket Thumbprints

Easter Basket ThumbprintsIf you’re looking for something easy and adorable to contribute to this year’s Easter desserts spread, your search is over.Easter Basket ThumbprintsEaster Basket Thumbprints are just as festive as my Easter Egg Hunt Cake and only 1/4 of the work! Who can resist their pastel cuteness?! Not this lady.Easter Basket ThumbprintsThis recipe is simply an Eastered-up take on the Holiday Icing Thumbprints I posted last Christmas. They are meant to resemble little two-bite Easter baskets 🙂 Easter Basket ThumbprintsThey are simple to make, too. I don’t have children, but I definitely would have made these with my older kids back in my nanny days.Easter Basket ThumbprintsEaster Basket ThumbprintsEaster Basket ThumbprintsThe sugar cookie dough bases are rolled in pastel sparkling sugar for color and texture (crispy edges!) before baking.Easter Basket ThumbprintsThen, immediately after baking, a well is pressed into the center of each cookie. These are the “thumbprints,” even though they’re made with the back of a 1/2 teaspoon. They’re filled with green icing…Easter Basket ThumbprintsEaster Basket Thumbprintsand topped with some coconut “Easter grass.”Easter Basket ThumbprintsEaster Basket ThumbprintsDot on a little extra icing and finish your cookies with a couple of Easter egg candies. I went with these candy-coated malted milk balls. Let’s not discuss how many I ate during this little photoshoot.Easter Basket ThumbprintsOr how many of these cheerful Easter Basket Thumbprints I ate in the days that followed.Easter Basket ThumbprintsNo regrets.Easter Basket Thumbprints

Easter Basket Thumbprints
makes about 3.5 dozen cookies

Cookie Dough:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon 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, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)

For Sugar Coating:
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1-2 drops each pink, blue, and yellow food colorings (liquid or gel)

Coconut:
1 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
3-5 drops green food coloring (preferably liquid)

Icing & Garnish:
1 1/3 cups confectioners sugar, divided
2-3 tablespoons (6-9 teaspoons) milk
2-3 drops green food coloring (liquid or gel)
1 package Easter egg candies (I like Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs)

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 peppermint extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

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

Make the sugar coating. Place 1/4 cup granulated sugar in each of 3 small bowls. Add 1 drop food coloring to each bowl (I used pink, blue, and yellow) and use a fork to stir in the color. If you use gel coloring, you may need a drop of water to ease the color onto the sugar. Add another drop of food coloring, if needed to reach desired color.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll each into a ball. Roll balls in colored sugar before placing at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Use the back of a very small spoon (like a 1/2 teaspoon) to slowly press a well into each dough ball. They may crack a bit—this is okay.

Bake cookies 12-13 minutes. Cookies are done when puffed and no longer raw-looking. When you remove the cookies from the oven, press the back of the small spoon into the centers again. Let cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, coating, and baking process with all remaining dough, letting the cookie sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Dye the coconut. Place flaked coconut in a small bowl and add 3 drops green food coloring. Use a fork (or your fingers) to distribute the dye evenly. Add another drop or 2 of coloring, as needed to achieve desired color.

Make the icing. Place confectioners sugar in a small bowl. Stir 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) of milk into each bowl. Add 2-3 drops green food coloring and whisk with a fork until combined. Add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon until icing is very thick, but pourable.

Transfer icing to a piping bag (or ziptop sandwich bag), twist it tight and snip off a very small corner. Fill wells in cookies as desired. Sprinkle/press on coconut.

Add a drop of icing to each cookie to adhere Easter egg candies.

Icing will set over time. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. Place wax paper between layers for easiest storage.Easter Basket Thumbprints Easter Basket Thumbprints

Coconut Cluster Brownies

Coconut Cluster BrowniesWhen I moved in with my roommate, I thought it would be a short-term deal. We were friendly, but didn’t know each other particularly well, and I honestly didn’t think we’d get along in close quarters—the original plan was that I’d live here for six months or so while I recovered from the end of a relationship.Coconut Cluster BrowniesFlash forward three years and I’m still here, living with the same guy. Turns out that an obsessive baker who mostly wears pajamas and a neat freak can, in fact, live in peace. And make each other laugh really hard.Coconut Cluster BrowniesBefore I get to the point and why this is relevant to Coconut Cluster Brownies, I have to say that this is not some sort of romantic announcement. Hahahahahaha absolutely not.Coconut Cluster BrowniesBut let me confuse you further by telling you that he got me a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a romantic gesture. We get each other things all the time—I sometimes make Super Sprinkle Sugar Cookies just because I know he likes them and I regularly find new jars of peanut butter on my baking bench because he sees them on sale and knows I’ll put them to use. In the case of the Valentine’s candy, we both happen to have a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate. High brow, we are not.Coconut Cluster BrowniesThe small Whitman’s Sampler that I received only had a few pieces in it, and I immediately determined the order in which I would eat them, one at a time, over the next few days. The caramel went first, followed by the buttercream and the ganache. The last one, the candy that I was the least excited about, was the Coconut Cluster. It was shaped like a peanut butter cup, but instead of being a filling enrobed in chocolate, it was a block of milk chocolate speckled with bits of coconut. As I went to eat it so I could toss the heart-shaped box, I didn’t expect much, but then I popped it into my mouth and suddenly became obsessed with putting this rich, simple chocolate-coconut combination on a brownie. And so, a month later, I did.Coconut Cluster BrowniesCoconut Cluster BrowniesCoconut Cluster BrowniesThese Coconut Cluster Brownies are nothing more than my favorite Cocoa Brownies topped with a layer of milk chocolate coconut candy. The brownie layer is rich and chewy with a touch of salt, while the candy layer is chocolaty, coconutty and slightly soft from the addition of a few tablespoons of butter. They’re great at room temperature, but if you chill the brownies, the candy gets a little on the snappy side. This is heaven for a texture freak like me.Coconut Cluster BrowniesIf you love chocolate, coconut, and brownies like I do, you will want to hoard all of these for yourself…Coconut Cluster Brownies…but maybe set one or two or four aside for your friend who puts up with your late night baking and knows you well enough to know how you feel about sale-priced peanut butter and cheap chocolate. That’s a good sort of person to have around.Coconut Cluster Brownies

Coconut Cluster Brownies
brownie recipe adapted from Alice Medrich
makes about 16 brownies

Cocoa Brownies:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on all sides, and butter again. Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Stir butter, sugars, and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one-by-one, mixing until they are completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in flour and salt just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

In a double boiler (or in 30-second increments in the microwave), melt chocolate and butter together. Fold in coconut. Mixture will be thick and heavily textured. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to spread mixture over brownies. Score chocolate with a knife for easier slicing. Top with additional coconut, if desired. Chill full pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Use parchment overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board and slice along score-lines. Serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container, layering brownies with wax paper to prevent sticking. Brownies will keep well for 4-5 days.Coconut Cluster BrowniesCoconut Cluster Brownies

One Big Chocolate M&Ms Cookie

One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieLast week, I needed a win. I needed a win badly.One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieI was reeling from a personal tragedy, having a difficult time getting myself out of bed in the morning, and couldn’t get any recipes to work properly. I suffer from depression and anxiety, so some of this is just part of my normal life, but there’s something about having recipes—something with which I am supposed to have some modicum of talent and control—repeatedly fail that sends me into a tailspin.

Exhibit A: That time I obsessively made 18 babkas.One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieI woke up Friday morning determined to get one recipe to work. Just one. Something I thought would be easy and only take two or three tries: a chocolate variation on my single-serving One Big Chocolate Chip Cookie. Using that recipe as a guide, I started mixing…and then proceeded to have many, many fails.One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOver the course of two hours, I ran the gamut of cookie failure. Too flat, too puffy, too dry, too chemical-tasting—you get the idea. Here are four of them:One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieBut then I looked at my tried & true Double Chocolate Cookie recipe and realized I hadn’t tried blooming the cocoa, a method of heating it with butter and sugar that produces a richer chocolate flavor. As with the large-batch cookies, this quick and easy process turned out to be key to my One Big Chocolate M&Ms Cookie success!One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieAlso, crucial to cookie success? Underbaking. If you bake this cookie until it’s fully done, you’ll end up with a chocolate M&Ms frisbee. This is because cocoa powder tends to dry things out and also because I use a teaspoon of water here in place of the usual egg (a little trick I learned from the regular chocolate chip version). Underbaking will yield crisp-chewy edges, a crackly top, and a soft, fudgy center. Yesssss.One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieI had a bunch of M&Ms leftover from making Monster Carmelitas last month, so that’s what I chose to use as my cookie mix-in. I love the contrast of the melty chocolate centers, crispy candy shells, and brownie-like cookie, but feel free to put whatever you want into this cookie base. Regular semisweet chocolate chips, white chocolate, mini peanut butter cups, walnuts—whatever you have around. It’s almost certainly guaranteed to be a win. And really, when is a big cookie not a win?One Big Chocolate M&Ms Cookie

One Big Chocolate M&Ms Cookie
makes one large cookie

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon water (not cold)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons M&Ms candy

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine butter, cocoa powder, and brown sugar. Microwave in 15-second increments, stirring in between until melted together. Alternatively, you may do this in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat.

Mix in water and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt, and whisk with a fork until a soft dough forms. Use a silicone spatula or spoon to mix/fold in M&Ms.

Use your hands to form dough into a ball and place on parchment. Dot with additional M&Ms (for aesthetic purposes), if desired. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until the top is crackly and the cookie appears a bit underdone.

Let cookie cool on the pan for 5-7 minutes before using a spatula to remove it to a plate. Enjoy.One Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms CookieOne Big Chocolate M&Ms Cookie

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