Best Fudge Ever!

Fudge

I’m sorry. I really am. Most of us are making resolutions to be healthier (myself included), and here I am posting a recipe that includes 5 cups of sugar. Please don’t hate me.

I will say, though, this is a recipe I need to share with y’all. This is the fudge that my Mom makes every holiday season. My Memaw makes a very similar version as well, except she swears by marshmallow cream instead of marshmallows.

I finally got the guts to give this recipe a whirl the week of Christmas, and I’m happy to say that I didn’t completely mess it up! I ended up slightly overcooking mine though, so it wasn’t quite as creamy as Mom makes it. I’m still working on getting better with candy making. :)

Mom’s Fudge
Source: My Mom

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 tbsp. butter

Directions:

  1. Mix cocoa and sugar in a dutch oven. Add both milks and mix.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil (to where the mixture almost bubbles over).
  3. Lower the heat and stir the mixture.
  4. Keep cooking and stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches soft ball stage or 235 degrees. (This video is EXCELLENT in helping you to figure out what soft ball stage is.)
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and working quickly, stir in the butter, peanut butter and marshmallows.
  6. Pour the batter in a parchment paper lined 9×13 inch pan. Allow it to cool for 2-3 hours. Cut and enjoy!

Peppermint Marshmallows

Ever since I found out that you could make your own marshmallows, I wanted to make them. The problem? I had a cheap hand mixer before our KA mixer. Now that we had the KA mixer, I had nothing holding me back from making these.

These are delicious, light and have a subtle peppermint flavor. I’m definitely putting the leftover ones from the gift tins in some hot chocolate ASAP.

Peppermint Marshmallows
Source: adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
  2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
  4. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
  5. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. To get red striping, add drops of red food coloring to the mixture in the pan and quickly swirl the coloring in. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Baking Gifts

Coworkers are typically difficult to buy for. In college, I would really only buy for fellow female student coworkers. It was easy…Starbucks gift cards, bath stuff, etc. When I graduated and got thrown into the real world, I was introduced to working in a primarily male field. I can’t shop for males, at all. I have enough trouble shopping for  my husband, father and brother! So, I started making edible gifts.

Last year, I bought cute Christmas chinese take-out boxes and put decorated sugar cookies, oreo truffles and chocolate covered pretzels in them. This year, I branched out from those ideas just a little bit.

I had my first adventures of making homemade peppermint marshmallows. The KA definitely was put to use here! I couldn’t have even fathomed making these last year with a $10 hand mixer.

Another recipe from Cookie Craft that I’ve been wanting to try is their rolled gingerbread cookies. These did not disappoint.

Of course, the oreo truffles made an appearance, and this time, instead of putting a bunch in one bag, I bought cutesy Christmas foils to wrap them in!

Adorable right? I love you Hobby Lobby.

Of course, here is a small picture of the packaging in action. I will say my kitchen was a big ol’ mess after this, but it was worth it! My coworkers seemed to love the goodies. Of course, the easiest recipe (oreo truffles) became the hit of the gifts!

Pumpkin Cheesecake


I remember how excited I was to finally have a springform pan. I could make cheesecakes galore! However, with being on a diet lately, I had no excuse to make one, until now. Work had a Thanksgiving potluck, and I thought, perfect excuse to make a PUMPKIN cheesecake. I have had my eye on this pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I found on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and it did not disappoint. I was still getting compliments on the cheesecake a couple of days later!

I topped it with the caramel I made earlier that was a little too soft to be candy, and it ended up being a little too hard to be a topping too. It made a bit of a mess for people trying to slice up cheesecake, but oh well! :)

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
Source:  The Way the Cookie Crumbles, where (crust from Cooks Illustrated, filling adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious)

Ingredients:

(Crust)

  • 5 ounces graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

(Filling)

  • 1½ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
  2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. In a medium bowl, stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Add granulated sugar mixture to cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. In a medium bowl (or the same one), whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) until combined. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set and measures 140 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes.
  4. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove sides of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.

Pumpkin Spice Vanilla Bean Caramels

I’ve never played with caramelized sugar before, but I’ve been curious about it for a while now. I finally just got the guts, and told myself I needed to try. Worst thing that can happen is burnt caramel, but I’m usually careful to avoid burning.

I was actually a little too careful. I took it out a little early and that resulting in a very soft caramel. Nothing jaw breaking about it at all, which is something that can happen if you leave it simmering for too long. So, I learned a little lesson about candy making, and let me tell you, if these were left a little longer, this would be an amazing candy to give as gifts!! Don’t let my mistake deter you away from this buttery goodness…I promise this caramel is just lovely. I plan on using the soft stuff in another recipe that will be pumpkin-licious!

So, you ask why pumpkin spice? Well, I’m a weird Starbucks customer. I get my Pumpkin Spice drinks with caramel drizzle, and believe me when I tell you that the combination is divine! Oh, and vanilla makes everything taste so much better, so do not skip out on the vanilla bean in this recipe!

I received these complimentary vanilla beans from Marx Foods for a vanilla bean photography contest. While my photography isn’t the best out there, I found this to be a fun challenge, and of course, I’m still hopeful for a win!

Pumpkin Spice Vanilla Bean Caramels
Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp. Tahitian vanilla
  • 1 Tahitian vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
  • 1 1/4 tsp. Fleur de sel
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  • Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, then lightly butter the pan.
  • Place cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla bean, spices and fleur de sel in a small saucepan, bring to a boil,  then remove from heat and set aside.
  • Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

This is just about the color you want to attain.

  • Remove vanilla bean and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (The mixture will bubble up here.) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers about 250°F on thermometer.
  • Pour into baking pan and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Then, sprinkle another pinch or two of fleur de sel over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let it cool until it’s no longer warm to the touch. Cut into 1-inch pieces (I used a pizza cutter with butter.), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Cupcake Pops

I made cupcake pops for my shower hostesses this past weekend. They came out awesome! Check out how I did it here!

Foodie Christmas Presents!!

This Christmas, I decided to give a bunch of homemade presents. I love the thought of gifting something that is homemade. It feels more personal, and who hates food?

For some family members, I gave spice baskets with homemade vanilla extract and sugar. For the extract, I found very reasonably priced bottles (that you didn’t have to buy in bulk or pay a TON for shipping, since they were glass) at American Spice Company, and I simply used mason jars for the vanilla sugar. To give it a cuter touch, I purchased label sheets at Office Depot and designed the labels for them myself. Check them out!

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I also made some homemade peppermint bark to put in the baskets. This is very simple…just place some parchment on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in melted semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Pour melted white chocolate on top (and swirl a little, if you’d like). Then, before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Once everything hardens, break the bark off into large chunks and place in bags.

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I thought that my family would enjoy some spice mixes, and I decided to give them our favorites from Penzeys: Northwood seasoning and BBQ 3000.

As for our coworkers, I baked sugar cookies using this recipe. I would say this book is a definite read for anyone who is interested in learning to decorate cookies! I adapted it to add almond extract, in addition to the vanilla extract and lemon rind called for in the recipe. It gave the cookies more of a sugar cookie flavor and less of a butter cookie flavor. This was the first homemade sugar cookie recipe that my fiance loved too! I FINALLY ended the search for the perfect recipe! :)

This recipe barely spread, allowing the cookies to keep their great crisp shape. It also rolled VERY easily. I never had a sticking problem, which is something I experienced with some previous recipes.

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To show how well they hold their shape, the cookies on the left are not cooked, while the ones on right are cooked.

I also made candy bark coated pretzels with Christmas M&Ms on top. This was a SUPER easy recipe. Just melt candy melts or bark, spoon into the middle of the store bought pretzels (laid out on wax or parchment paper) and top with 3 M&M’s.
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Last, but not least, I made the infamous Oreo Truffles. To make more, I used 1/2 tsp. as a measuring tool for how big the truffles should be. These made a more decent sized truffle, and I made about 80 with the recipe this time.

Then, I put each treat in holiday cellophane bags, as pictured.

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These went in cute little holiday take-out boxes that I found at Michael’s for $1 each. I absolutely love how these all came out! They were also well-received, so I’m definitely going to keep making edible gifts for future holidays!
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Christmas Oreo Truffles

I made these again for the holidays. This time, I had MUCH more patience! I also used a food processor for a finer truffle and it worked out really well. :)

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Oreo Truffles

I’ll admit it…I rushed myself into making oreo truffles, so they aren’t the prettiest. However, the taste makes up for it BIG TIME!

I found this idea originally in Beantown Baker’s blog, and I love that this is non-perishable!

I can’t wait to make these around the holidays with my new candy dipper set too…

All you need are:

1 package oreos
14 oz. condensed milk (you may need less than this…see directions)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Almond bark or melting chocolate

First, crush the oreos in a ziploc bag or a food processor.

Then, add half of the condensed milk and mix together. Add a little more at a time, until the filling is mold-able by hand, but not too sticky.



Form into small balls and place in the freezer to set for about half an hour. In the meantime, prepare your melting chocolates according to the package instructions in the microwave or double boiler. Then, dip the balls in chocolate (I used toothpicks to hold the balls in the chocolate) and allow to cool on parchment or mini candy cups. :)


A Fun Idea for Kids!

I am a volunteer teacher for Junior Achievement, which I do one day a week during my lunch hour at a local elementary school. It’s a great program, and it’s nationwide, so if you think this is something you would be interested in, seriously contact your local office! It’s so fun and rewarding :)

Anyways, I always like to get the kids something for their last class as a congrats, besides the certificates that are given out by Jr. Achievement. I decided to make them large lollipops!

I don’t even remember how I found this idea, but I came across it on This Mama Cooks!

Apparently, these little foil pans are hard to find, but I found them at the local Dollar Tree. So, 24 of these for a $1?? SCORE! I bought the lollipop sticks at Wal-Mart in the crafts section and I used two bags of 14 oz. Jolly Ranchers for the candy, as recommended on the website.

Here are the directions for these fun lollipops!

* 8 Reynolds® FunShapes™ Stars or Hearts Baking Cups
* 8 (6-inch) Lollipop sticks
* 40 Jolly Ranchers

PREHEAT oven to 300°F. Place Reynolds FunShapes Stars and/or Hearts Baking Cups on a cookie sheet with sides.

MAKE a hole in one side of each of the baking cups near the bottom of the cups with a toothpick. Insert the lollipop sticks from the inside of the cup through the hole made with the toothpick and push it to the outside leaving at least 1 inch inside the cup.**

ARRANGE 5 candies in each baking cup, placing one candy over the lollipop stick. (It does not need to lay flat, it will melt around the stick.)

BAKE 5 to 6 minutes (it took my oven 9 minutes) or until candy is melted. Carefully remove baking cups from cookie sheet onto a tray to cool; immediately twirl stick to completely coat with candy. Prop sticks with handle of a wooden spoon if necessary to keep the sticks straight in baking cup while lollipop cools.

REMOVE lollipops from baking cups by tearing foil and peeling away from lollipops.

I then wrapped them in little cellophane bags and tied them for cute presentation. The kids LOVED it and the teacher kept asking how did I do that with Jolly Ranchers? LOL!

This was super easy and I recommend giving this little project a try! You can make cute bouquets with these for kid’s gifts or parties too!