Category Archives: Candy

Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide

Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideI know what you’re thinking. “Hasn’t Caramel Sauce already been on here?” Well yes, a few times, but it’s never had its own post and don’t you think it deserves that tiny amount of recognition? I do. Also, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideSo, why am I posting Caramel Sauce now, at the holidays, instead of mid-summer like every other ice cream topping and dessert sauce in my archives? Because it is perfect for food gifting. Perfect! It’s easy, you can make it days or weeks ahead (watch the dates on your dairy), and who wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled to receive a little jar of homemade Caramel Sauce from someone they love? A monster, obviously.

(Why am I phrasing everything as a question today?)Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideTruth is, I’ve been meaning to write a little homemade food gift guide for years, but am just now getting around to it. I am a big proponent of homemade gifts, having done everything from making clay ornaments to puffy painting to sewing stuffed animals. I can tell you from experience that food is definitely the quickest, easiest and cheapest in terms of DIY gifting, and as sugar, butter and flour have been my artistic media of choice for the last 7.5 years, I have learned a lot about what makes for quality food gifts.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Want to give something saucy? People love an ice cream topping, even in the dead of winter. I’m obviously out here shilling for Caramel today, but you can do Peanut Butter Caramel, Butterscotch or even homemade Hot Fudge without much hassle. You could also go super easy and just microwave a bunch of Chocolate Shell! Just make a batch of any of the aforementioned sauces and divide it among heatproof jars. The jars pictured today are 4-ounce mason jars that I keep on hand, but 8-ounce jars would be great too.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Looking to give cookies? You’re in luck! There are so many holiday cookie recipes that are beyond perfect for gifting. Not only do they look beautiful all boxed (tinned?) up, but they keep incredibly well, especially crisper offerings. Think Iced Sugar Cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, Stained Glass Cookies, Maple Spice Stars, Brown Butter Shortbread, Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread, Gingersnaps, this week’s Peppermint Bark Cookies, Pinwheels, vegan/gluten-free Oat-Pecan Linzers, Pretzel Shortbread, Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints…the list goes on and on.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideDon’t forget that brownies and blondies are technically cookies, too! Pro tip: you can easily double most of my 9″ square recipes and bake them up in a 9×13″ pan without changing much of anything.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Candy on your mind? I am not the world’s most proficient candy maker, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I love a good homemade truffle, especially these vegan Five Ingredient Salted Marzipan beauties. You could also make easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge or Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams. Yum!Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideIf I were to gift candy this year, I’d go for popcorn. People LOVE popcorn. <–that’s me, I’m people. The Super Sprinkle Popcorn I made over the summer could easily be transformed with some holiday sprinkles. And then there’s Salty Maple Caramel Corn. Ohhh my. It’s salty-sweet easy, gluten-free, and makes enough for several tins. You could even get a little wild and make Sriracha Cracker Jack. Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
In the mood to make cakes? Well, you’re the kind of friend I’d like to have. Cake definitely takes a little forethought, but if you were to wrap a Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}, Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cake or Eggnog Bundt in cellophane, or deliver a grain-free Winning Hearts & Minds Cake in a (clean) small pizza box, you might just…win hearts and minds. And make someone feel incredibly special.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Don’t want to bother turning on your oven? I’ve got you there, too. Make a homemade mix! You can easily jar individual brownie and hot chocolate mixes! Just make yourself an assembly line and write (or print out) little tags with instructions for how to make your brownies or hot chocolate. This will give your friends a little low-maintenance something to do and enjoy during this weird AF holiday season.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideThis is just the tip of the food gifting iceberg–I could go on forever. I hope this guide inspires you to treat your friends to something sweet this month. It’s going to be strange and solitary holiday for many of us, and I know a little homemade something would do us all some good.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide

Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
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 Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide

Peppermint Bark Cookies

Peppermint Bark CookiesHow have I never put peppermint bark on here? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint, it’s festive, it’s iconic, and yet it’s never graced this blog. That is, unless you count assembling it on top of a giant sheet of chocolate cookie and then breaking it into a zillion jagged pieces, which I very much do.Peppermint Bark CookiesOoooh y’all, these have been a long time coming. Over the years, I have tested putting peppermint bark on a cookie cake, shortbread bars, potato chips and brownies, none of which have made to on the blog, but these Peppermint Bark Cookies? These are where it’s at. If you make one new cookie recipe this holiday season, let this be it. It’s the best of two worlds (peppermint bark and cookies, duh), surprisingly simple, and so, so good.Peppermint Bark CookiesThe dough comes together in a flash. It’s just my chocolate cut-out cookie recipe, but instead of stamping out cookies with graduated cutters, it’s divided in two and rolled into big rectangles. Each one gets a 15 minute freeze, a 17 minute bake and then has to cool completely before the peppermint barking. <—Sounds weird, keeping it anyway.

The way the recipe is written, these big cookies retain a good amount of softness, but aren’t gooey or underdone at all. Once baked and cooled, you can wrap them in plastic and wait a day or two before assembly, or you can get right to it.Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Bark CookiesThis part—the peppermint bark part—is easy, but I still have a few tips for you.

Use good quality pure white chocolate, like Ghirardelli or even Baker’s. Please don’t use white chocolate chips. Just don’t. Melting white chocolate is always a little finicky, but white chocolate chips? Forget it—too many stabilizers. I’ve outlined a microwave method for melting white chocolate in the recipe; it’s easy, but involves a few stops and starts and adding more chopped white chocolate at a certain interval. You may be wondering if any of that matters and if you can’t just chuck it all together and call it a day. And yeah, you can, but your white chocolate will never be as smooth and spreadable as what you see here. Heat and time, y’all. They’re important.

After your white chocolate is melted, add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract. This will make your white chocolate seize slightly for a few seconds, but just keep whisking and it will smooth out. Could you skip the extract? Sure. But that extra hint of peppermint is wonderful.Peppermint Bark CookiesAnd speaking of peppermint, I like to use starlight peppermints in my Christmas baking. Some bakers prefer candy canes, but peppermints are cheaper ($1!) and look the exact same as candy canes when all bashed up. Oh, and unpopular opinion? They taste better than your average candy cane. Fight me.Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Bark CookiesTo make the peppermint bark, spread the melted white chocolate all over the big chocolate cookies and scatter on the bashed peppermints. Then give your cookies a 20 minute freeze to set the bark. You can also let it set at room temperature, but it will take a couple of hours and that seems like a lot when cookies can be had so much sooner.Peppermint Bark CookiesThe last step in this process is the most fun: breaking the big cookies into shards! Just like with traditional peppermint bark, make the pieces as big or small as you like. Try to let go of the outcome—the charm here is that each piece is different. If you need uniformity with your Peppermint Bark Cookies, you can obviously slice the big rectangles into squares.Peppermint Bark CookiesAfter that, it’s time to treat yourself! These cookies have it all: a soft chocolate base, a layer of smooth, snappy, peppermint-spiked white chocolate, a smattering of candy, and a whole lot of holiday cheer. They’re so delicious that you could easily hoard the whole batch to yourself, but I think they’d be amazing packed up in tins and gifted. And speaking of food gifting, that’s what we’re talking about on Friday. See you then!Peppermint Bark Cookies

Peppermint Bark Cookies
makes lots

Chocolate Cookie Base:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For peppermint bark:
40 starlight peppermints
16 ounces pure white chocolate (not white chocolate chips)
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (not mint extract)

Special Equipment:
rolling pin
2 12×16-inch sheets parchment
2 quarter sheet pans or jelly roll pans
small hammer/meat tenderizer/heavy object

Place oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 350F.

Make chocolate cookie base. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Use your hands to knead dough into a mass, then divide it in two.

Lightly flour your rolling pin. Place one half of the dough on a sheet of parchment. Gently pat it into a rectangle shape before rolling it out to an 8×12-inch rectangle. You may need to slice off edges and patchwork your corners together—this is fine. Transfer dough (on parchment) to one rimmed sheet pan. Freeze 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining half of dough.

Bake frozen dough rectangles 17-18 minutes, until puffed and no longer raw looking. Watch the edges to make sure they don’t burn. Let cool completely on their pans on racks.

Prepare the peppermint bark. Place starlight mints in a ziptop bag and seal. Place bag on a cutting board, or other surface that can take some light bashing. Use a small hammer or other heavy object to smash peppermints into small pieces (follow your preference). Set aside.

Chop 12 ounces of the white chocolate and place in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, until melted (this takes 60 seconds in my microwave). Chop remaining 4 ounces of white chocolate and add to melted white chocolate. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring between, until melted (this takes about 30 seconds in my microwave).

Add peppermint extract to white chocolate and stir until smooth. White chocolate may appear to seize at first, but just keep stirring and it will smooth out.

Divide white chocolate mixture onto the two rectangles and use the back of a spoon or offset knife to spread it to the edges, leaving a narrow border if desired. Sprinkle crushed peppermints over the top. Freeze cookies for 20 minutes to set white chocolate.

Remove cookies from freezer and let thaw a few minutes before breaking into pieces. Serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for a few days. Peppermints may degrade over time.Peppermint Bark CookiesPeppermint Bark Cookies

Easy Coconut Truffles

Easy Coconut TrufflesWith all the coconut recipes in my archives, you’d never guess that I couldn’t stand it when I was a child. I don’t know when I started to like it—I’m guessing around the time when my whole extended family randomly started bringing German Chocolate Cake to every occasion…?

Well, I guess it’s not important. The point is that coconut is my jam and I bake with it as often as possible.Easy Coconut TrufflesI spent a good chunk of January working on a coconut cookie for the blog, but the recipe’s just not quite “there.” I was a little bummed after round 4, realizing that I was going to have to let the recipe come to me rather than forcing it (baking gets spiritual around these parts). In the meantime though, I had three bags of sweetened flaked coconut taking up space in my kitchen. I realize that bags of coconut don’t have souls, but I swear they were taunting me.Easy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut TrufflesAnd so, I threw the contents of one in a bowl with a cup of sweetened condensed milk (a la this), rolled the mixture into balls, coated them with dark chocolate and topped ‘em off with toasted coconut, and called them Valentine’s Day-appropriate…which they are.Easy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut Truffles are way better than any candy you’ll find in a heart-shaped box, and super fun to make at home. They require a grand total of six ingredients (!) and are chock-full of coconut flavor thanks to the creamy filling and toasty garnish. And even though they’re a little imperfect, they’re completely wonderful.

If that’s not a metaphor for love, I don’t know what is.Easy Coconut Truffles

Easy Coconut Truffles
makes about 3.5 dozen truffles

Filling:
1 14-ounce bag sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
pinch of salt

Coating:
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (not chocolate chips)
1 teaspoon coconut oil (or butter)
1 teaspoon corn syrup (or mild honey)

Toasted Coconut:
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Special Equipment:
microwave-safe bowl or double boiler
parchment paper
baking sheet or a few plates (must fit in refrigerator)

Make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir together coconut and sweetened condensed milk until combined and a bit sticky. Cover mixture loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to a day.

Make toasted coconut. Preheat oven to 325F. Scatter coconut on a dry rimmed baking sheet. Bake coconut, stirring every 3-4 minutes until toasted to your liking, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Line a rimmed baking sheet (or a few plates) with parchment paper. Remove coconut mixture from refrigerator. Lightly grease your hands. Scoop mixture in 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) increments and roll into balls with your palms. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all coconut mixture is used. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or freeze for 15).

Make the coating. Place chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir with a fork. Add coconut oil. Continue to microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Stir in corn syrup.

To dip, drop one ball of coconut into the melted chocolate and use a fork to coat it in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the truffle on the prepared pan. Immediately top with a pinch of toasted coconut. Continue this process until all truffles are coated and garnished.

Place baking sheet in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, or until chocolate has set. Serve.

Truffles will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.Easy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut TrufflesEasy Coconut Truffles

Friday Favorites: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a divisive occasion, but whether you love it or hate it, it’s a week away. I, for one, think any excuse to show people you love them is a good one, and you won’t be surprised to learn that I express love primarily through food (and videos of dogs on Instagram).

Here are some of my favorite treats from Valentine’s Days past. Look out for a new one next Wednesday!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayRed Velvet Cheesecake Bars

I may associate red velvet with Oscar Night, but most bakers like to make it for Valentine’s Day. These bars are much simpler to make than the traditional cake, and bypass the frosting in favor of a thick layer of cheesecake.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayStrawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

I’ll never understand why strawberries are so popular for Valentine’s Day. Who wants to eat a flavorless February strawberry?! That said, freeze-dried strawberries are good year-round, especially when pulverized and mixed into soft sugar cookie squares and buttercream. They provide both flavor and color here—these are food coloring-free!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Speaking of strawberry buttercream, that’s the name and filling of these homemade candies! The frosting is made and chilled before being scooped, rolled, and enrobed in dark chocolate.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayCoconut Cluster Brownies

I have a bit of a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate, which is exactly what inspired the milk chocolate-coconut candy layered on top of these brownies. I’ll take these over a heart-shaped box any day of the week!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

These Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread hearts are one of my favorite recipes on this site. They’re simple to make and the flavors are universally loved, and while you can make them in any shape you like, I think they are particularly adorable as half-dipped hearts.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Cut-Out Cookies

For all the class and restraint embodied in those shortbread, these cookies go in the exact opposite direction. They’re brash and bright and snarky and I l-o-v-e love them. Oh, and while icing is great, the rich chocolate cookies underneath are the real stars of the show.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Valentine’s falls on a Friday this year, and if you’re anything like me, making a fuss after a long workweek is not my idea of a good time, especially if it means I have to wear real clothes. Skip the fancy dinner and celebrate the morning after with a Chocolate Puff Pancake. It’s super delicious and easy to make and you don’t have to change out of your pajamas to make it.

Have you made any of these or any of my other Valentine’s Day recipes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayFriday Favorites: Valentine’s Day

Monster Cookies

Monster CookiesIf you’re keeping track, this is my third Monster recipe in 18 months, but I took the long way around, posting two spin-offs of this recipe before posting the real deal. Logic isn’t always my bag. Monster CookiesIf you missed my Monster Blondies and Monster Carmelitas and are wondering why I’m talking about monsters and if this is another Halloween thing, the short answers are

  1. Monster Cookies are peanut butter oatmeal cookies with M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  2. Nobody seems to know exactly where the name came from, but it has something to do with them being loaded with so many good things. A “Monster mash”-up, if you will.
  3. Not traditionally, but the name works. It’s Halloween food if you say it is. Or if you steal your kids’ Halloween candy and use it to make Monster Cookies.Monster CookiesMonster Cookies

When going about trying to make the best Monster Cookies I could muster, I started with my recipes for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Monster Blondies and went from there. After a few tweaks, like finding the right amount of peanut butter, reducing the oats and adding a chill, I’m happy to report that the results are pretty stellar.Monster CookiesWe’re talking puffy, chewy, peanut buttery cookies that have just the right amounts of oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips. I had every intention of pawning these off on friends and acquaintances, but they’re so delicious that I kept them all for myself. #sorrynotsorryMonster CookiesTo that point, Monster Cookies stay good for a whole week! Day after day, I kept waiting to bite into one and be disappointed, but the batch came and went and nary a sad cookie was eaten.

But, I mean, when cookies are this colorful and delectable, how could they ever be anything but delightful?Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies
makes about 2.5 dozen cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup M&Ms candy
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring between, until melted and smooth. Transfer mixture into a large mixing bowl.

Whisk brown sugar into the butter-peanut butter mixture. Add eggs one at a time, whisking to combine, followed by vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in oats, followed by M&Ms and chocolate chips. Cover cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments and roll into balls. Set at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 10-11 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front at the 6 minute mark.

Let cookies cool on their pans for 7-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat dough rolling and baking until all dough is used.

Cookies will keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.Monster CookiesMonster Cookies