Posts Tagged 'Candy'

Chocolate Panforte Candies

Our gourmet club theme was really fun this month: lucky foods for the new year. We met last night and had a wonderful spread filled with all kinds of foods that should bring good fortune in 2013, including bacon jam (pigs symbolize progress and “the fat of the land”), smoked salmon dip (fish represent abundance), roasted grapes with rosemary (grapes are part of a Spanish tradition), Hoppin’ John risotto (black-eyed peas represent coins/prosperity), cooked greens (greens look like money), and honey cornbread (cornbread is the color of gold).

I was on dessert duty, and since there aren’t too many sweet foods that fall on the lucky list, I decided to explore the “round” theme for dessert. Round or ring-shaped foods represent prosperity (coins are round) and the idea of coming full circle. Bundt cake was a natural choice since it’s a popular ring-shaped dessert (I went with Martha’s Tangerine Cake with Citrus Glaze), but I wanted to add another element. Since chocolate and orange go so well together, I knew I wanted to make some kind of chocolate candy. Today’s recipe – Chocolate Panforte Candies – fit the bill perfectly. They pull together chocolate, orange, and several other unexpected flavors that work together wonderfully. Everyone liked the cake, for sure, but I think they loved these.

Chocolate Panforte Candies
Active time: 40 min. | Total time: 2 hours
Makes 14

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quartered dried black Mission figs
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange peel, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (scant) hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
14 standard paper muffin baking cups

Method:
Cook first 5 ingredients and 1 teaspoon orange peel in heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until liquid forms thick syrup that coats figs, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in cinnamon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon orange peel, and nuts.

Melt chocolate in microwave-safe bowl on medium power until melted and warm to touch, stopping once to stir, about 1 1/2 minutes. Arrange paper cups on rimmed baking sheet. Spoon 1 mounded teaspoon chocolate onto bottom of each paper cup. Tap baking sheet on work surface to spread chocolate over bottom of cups. Top center of each with about 1 mounded teaspoon fig mixture. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Peel off paper. Let chocolates stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Source: Bon Appétit, December 2008

My notes:

  • I chopped the figs instead of quartering them and chopped the hazelnuts instead of leaving them whole.
  • I found hazelnuts in the bulk section at Whole Foods. I roasted them for 9 minutes at 350°F and then rubbed the skins off before chopping them. Some skins didn’t rub off entirely, which wasn’t a big deal.
  • The recipe makes about twice the amount of topping that you need, so I would recommend halving the topping or doubling the chocolate.
  • The microwave instructions in the recipe won’t completely melt the chocolate. Just stir, stir, stir until the chocolate is smooth.
  • I’ve made these with both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate; Dr. O and I like the bittersweet the best.

Chocolate Panforte Candies

These candies are ridiculously good. Who knew figs and chocolate went so well together? The crunch of the hazelnuts is pretty special as well. Like one of the recipe reviewers, I was worried that the clove and nutmeg might be overwhelming, but everything blends together beautifully in the finished product. And I do mean beautifully… Both times I’ve served these, people wondered how I created such a gorgeous edge on these chocolates. Muffin cups work wonders!

These probably aren’t going to satisfy a crowd that wants Oreo balls and peanut butter fudge, but they’re perfect for foodies, adventurous eaters, or anyone who enjoys a little something unexpected. I’ll be making them again next December (if not sooner!) for sure.

Recipe link: Chocolate Panforte Candies

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Vanilla Caramels

Here’s another edible holiday gift!

I love Bequet’s Celtic sea salt caramels, and I went through a phase back in March when I made several different recipes in an attempt to duplicate their amazing flavor and texture.  One recipe was a total failure, and one had pretty amazing textural results but tasted really strongly of brown sugar (good, but not what I was going for). I dropped my pursuit of perfect caramels until I came across Grace Parisi’s recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels last week; I’ve had so much luck with Food and Wine recipes that I figured I might as well give them a try.  These have the more delicate, sophisticated flavor I was looking for, and the texture is just fantastic. They’re not quite Bequets, but they’re close enough!

I skipped the chocolate part of Ms. Parisi’s recipe, so click the link to the original recipe at the bottom of the post if you want the whole thing.

Vanilla Caramels
Adapted from FoodandWine.com

Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I ran out of light, so I used 3/4 cup light and 1/4 cup dark)
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, crumbled

Method:
Line a 9-x-13-inch pan with foil; spray it with vegetable oil.  In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the sugar, corn syrup and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Add the vanilla seeds.  Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer, 1 hour.  Stir in the sea salt and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan.  Let cool and set completely overnight.

Invert the caramel onto a cutting board and peel off the foil.  Using a sharp, lightly oiled knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch wide strips and then into 1-inch squares. Wrap the individual caramel squares in wax paper.

My modifications:

  • I lined my 9-x-13-inch pan with parchment paper, not foil, since that’s what I used when I made all those caramels back in March.
  • I periodically washed down the sides of my pan with a silicone brush and water to make sure there weren’t any undissolved sugar grains.  A single unincorporated sugar crystal can crystallize the candy mixture and ruin your whole batch.  The corn syrup in the recipe helps prevent crystallization, but I figured it was better to be overly cautious.
  • The recipe is kind of ambiguous about how much stirring you should do.  I just stirred mine periodically and very carefully.  (Sloshing the mixture around, especially early in the recipe, can lead to crystallization.)
  • Since high altitude affects candy making temperatures, I cooked my mixture to 235°F instead of 245°F.  (At my house, water boils at 202°F instead of 212°F, which is why I subtracted 10 degrees.  If you don’t live at sea level, you can do the test yourself by sticking a candy thermometer in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil.)
  • Once the mixture hit 235°F, I removed it from the heat and waited 1 minute before stirring in the sea salt.  I think waiting a beat helps the salt maintain its crunch in the finished caramels.

Vanilla Caramels

Aren’t these absolutely adorable?  I cut my caramels much smaller and did the more traditional wax-paper-with-twisted-ends packaging in the spring, but bigger cuts with bows are so much better for gifting.

I’m so pleased with the results of this recipe!  The flavor is wonderful, and the sea salt maintained its crunch in the finished product (one of my favorite elements of the Bequet caramels).  Cooked to 235°F, the caramels are firm enough to hold their shape but definitely soft and chewy.  The Bequet caramels are softer (they might start to puddle ever so slightly if you unwrapped one and let it sit for a few minutes), so I might try taking these off the heat at 230°F next time to see if I can get even closer to a Bequet-like result.  This is definitely my new go-to caramel recipe.

Update 1/19/13: I made these for Christmas last month and lined my pan with non-stick foil without any vegetable oil or spray. The foil worked perfectly! I’m going to use this method from here on out to prevent the vegetable oil problems a few of you have mentioned.

Recipe link: Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

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This challenge was pretty wide open in terms of what kind of candy we had to make to satisfy our requirements.  We had to make one chocolate candy (an incredibly broad category itself), and one other candy that could be whatever we like (chocolate or non-chocolate).  For my chocolate candy, I was partially inspired by the S’mores Squares I made earlier this month.  The marshmallow component is so good!  So, I decided to make some marshmallow, cut it into little square slabs, and sandwich peanut butter between two halves.  (Pardon the blurry photo.)

Marshmallow Sandwich

Tempering chocolate was an optional part of the challenge this month, and I just didn’t have time to deal with it.  (I’m posting late as it is! 🙂 )  I ended up melting some Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate (I think it balanced the sweetness of the marshmallow and the peanut butter nicely) in a double boiler, dipping the sandwiched marshmallows in that, and then adding a chopped peanut garnish.  The candies turned out amazing!  My husband loves them so much that I’ll have to start making them regularly.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Marshmallow Candies

For my other candy, I made lollipops.  I’ve had a molar lollipop mold (totally ironic, right?) sitting in my pantry, waiting for its moment to shine.  I used the DIY Lollies recipe from Oprah.com with all corn syrup and orange extract.  (I didn’t have any flavored oil and preferred to use what I had in the pantry, so I was able to determine that one part flavored oil is equal to four parts flavored extract.)

My first try was a flop for two reasons: I only made a half recipe (there just wasn’t enough candy to go around!), and I followed the part of the recipe that told me to transfer the hot candy to a measuring cup (glass, of course) before pouring it into the molds.  So much heat was lost in the transfer that my candy started to set in the glass measuring cup before I had managed to fill my lollipop molds.  The second time, I made a full recipe and poured the hot candy straight from the pan. Things worked out much better, though I still had some difficulty getting my lollies out of the molds (hence the broken root tip on the molar).  Broken or not, they were really tasty.

Tooth Lollipop

So I’ll definitely make the chocolate candies again, and I may try lollipops again if I’m feeling brave.  Thanks for a great challenge, Lisa and Mandy!

Recipe links: S’mores Squares (for marshmallow only) and DIY Lollies

Sweet “Potatoes”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s continuously been St. Patrick’s Day since last Saturday?  I suppose having it fall on a Thursday maximizes the pre-celebration.

I was thumbing through the March 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living the other day when I found this year’s St. Patrick’s Day project: Sweet “Potatoes” (since potatoes are oh so Irish!).  I’ve done Guinness bread and Guinness ice cream, and so many others have done some variation of Guinness cupcakes.  The “potatoes” are balls of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chopped walnuts rolled in cinnamon to emulate the look of real potatoes.  Fun and unusual, right?

Apparently, the unusual overrides the fun, at least initially.

The “potatoes” were already made when Dr. O came home yesterday evening, so he hadn’t seen what went into them.  I asked him if they looked like potatoes (so desperately wanting him to say “yes!”), and he said they didn’t.  I found out about 20 minutes later that he thought they really were potatoes that didn’t look like the kind of potatoes he was used to seeing.  Consequently, you should have seen his face when I asked him to take a bite.  He took the tiniest nibble off of an edge and wasn’t sure what to think…  Since he thought they really were potatoes in some form, he was expecting a savory bite; he was also completely caught off guard by the white cream cheese and butter interior.  Ha! Once he realized that the “potatoes” were sweet candies, he enjoyed them a heck of a lot more.  Perhaps that’s the lesson here: If you want to confuse/surprise adults or make something that kids will think is cool, this is the project for you.  I don’t see these flying off of a serving tray if people don’t know what they are, though.

For those of you with kids and/or a sense of humor, here’s the recipe:

Sweet “Potatoes”
Makes 40

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
2 cups walnuts (toasted, cooled, and finely chopped)
Ground cinnamon

Method:
Beat butter and cream cheese with vanilla and salt until pale and fluffy. Mix in sugar and walnuts until smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll dough (1 tablespoon each) between your hands. Shape into “potatoes.” Roll in cinnamon; brush off excess with a pastry brush. To create “eyes,” stick in walnut pieces. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes

The candies are definitely on the sweet side (to be expected since the bulk of the dough is made of powdered sugar), but the cream cheese and walnuts sure do make them tasty.  I think the cinnamon plays nicely with the walnuts, too.  They won’t knock your socks off, but they’re certainly a fun holiday project.

TIPS:  In order to make the candies look most potato-like, I found that brushing the cinnamon on with a pastry brush worked better than rolling them in the cinnamon. Grocery store potatoes have that uneven layer of soil on them, and rolling the candies coated them a bit too evenly.

Recipe link: Sweet “Potatoes”




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