Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So Many Treats, So Little Time!

I am woefully behind on posting the many yummy treats I've made in the past week or so.  It's just been busy, busy, busy!  So, I am going to post recipes RIGHT NOW, and I'll have to add some pictures in later, just so you can get inspired.
Let's see.  My first super-easy and super-yummy treat:
Hugs Pretzels
Bag of Hershey's Hugs
Bag of Pretzel Snaps (the square/grid ones, salted)
1.  Turn oven to 200 degrees.
2.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
3.  Spread a layer of pretzels on the wax paper.
4.  Place a Hug in the middle of each pretzel.
5.  Place in oven for 3 to 4 minutes, until Hugs are just melting.
6.  Remove from oven and gently place another pretzel on top, making a tidy little sandwich.
7.  Allow to cool or even pop in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.
8.  Remove from wax paper and store in airtight container for as long as they last, which isn't long around here!  
You can also make these with Rolos or any other Hershey's Kiss Variation.  A friend of mine is making some with a Rolo, then skip the second pretzel and push a Mint M&M down into the Rolo after it's melted to make a gooey, chocolatey, caramelly pretzel thingy.  I plan to snag one of these from her in the next few days and will report back with my findings!  
My second super-easy and far-too-yummy treat:  
Homemade Marshmallows
Back in October, sweet Maggie had the flu and was home with me for a few days.  I can honestly say it was fun; I kinda miss the old days when it was just the two of us!  We spent a lot of time watching Maggie's favorite channel, Food Network, and there were a LOT of Halloween treats being made.  One of them really got Maggie's attention:  Homemade Orange Marshmallows by Giada DiLaurentiis.  Though I think the orange-flavored ones would be divine, I decided to make these for the holidays in some crowd-pleasing flavors:  Vanilla and Peppermint.  
First of all, here's the recipe for 
Homemade Orange Marshmallows:
Butter, for greasing the pan
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup
3 tablespoons (3 packets) unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 large orange, zested
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch straight-sided baking pan. Dust liberally with sifted powdered sugar and set aside.
Pour 1/2 cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow to soften, about 10 minutes.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup water. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour the syrup over the gelatin mixture. Beat the mixture at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume, about 10 to 12 minutes. Beat in the orange zest and vanilla extract until just combined. Using a spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with orange decorating sugar. Allow the mixture to set, uncovered, in a cool place (not refrigerated) for at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove the marshmallows from the pan and place on a powdered sugar-dusted surface. Using scissors, dusted with powdered sugar, cut the marshmallows into about 1-inch squares. Dip the cut sides into powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
For PEPPERMINT MARSHMALLOWS:  Omit the orange zest and add 1 tsp peppermint extract.
For VANILLA MARSHMALLOWS:  Omit the orange zest and add an extra 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract.  (For a total of 1-1/2 tsp of vanilla for the recipe)
Now, the best part:  I cut the peppermint marshmallows into 1" squares, put three of them on a lollipop stick, drizzled them with semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled them with crushed old-fashioned peppermint stick.  I put them in a little baggie and tied 'em up with a bit of white and red curling ribbon. 
I LOVE the texture of these marshmallows.  They are light, but firm and they flavor is incredible.  They are soo easy to make that when I made the second batch, I pretty much just went by time instead of temperature and they turned out great.  And here's a little confession:  My candy thermometer is about 10 degrees off, so I actually burned the sugar candy base of the marshmallows, but since I'd already invested so much time, I just poured the sugar base into the gelatin and didn't scrape the pan (left the burned parts behind) and the marshmallows were still incredible!  How's that for Katy-proof!?!?!?!
Pictures coming soon, because these were just awesome!

My favorite cookies... A Fairy Tale

Many years ago, in a land far, far away, there was a little dessert shop called The Dessertery.  The Dessertery worked hard all day making things to make my butt bigger, and Butt and The Dessertery were great friends.  One of their favorite things to do together was eat The Dessertery's very own "Desserty Cookie", which was some divine-inspired butterscotch chip oatmeal cookie with a crazy delicious texture.  Butt and The Dessertery spent many hours and many afternoons enjoying these cookies.  One day, Butt had to leave for college with me, leaving behind her old friend The Dessertery.  They saw each other less and less.  The Dessertery got a little uppity and decided to leave its cute little shop space and move to a bigger buliding down Stratford Road and become a full-fledged restaurant.  It did well for awhile, but then, like so many other formerly humble cafes, it suffered from declining food quality.  The Dessertery now no longer resembles its old self at all and is more of a market and cafe, and, honestly, the desserts just aren't the same.  And the Dessertery Cookie no longer exists.  So, Butt never saw her friend again.   
One day, as Butt and I were reminiscing about good times, we remembered that we missed The Dessertery and especially those incredible cookies.  We searched high and low for the recipe and even asked once if The Dessertery had her old recipes available for loyal customers and friends.   She did not.  After much thought and missing our old friend, Butt and I decided to take matters in our own hands and tried to reproduce the recipe.  I don't know that we'll ever rekindle the magic, but these cookies come pretty darn close:
Butterscotch Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Mix together flours, baking soda and salt, set aside.
Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl. Add vanilla extract, milk, and eggs and mix well. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in oats and chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 9 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies (Never occurred to me, but you can always try!  I like my cookies chewy!) Cool on baking sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks. Devour warm or cool.
Makes about 4 dozen very healthy cookies! :)

Slight variation:  If you're feeling a bit adventurous, include a 1/4 tsp. of orange extract in your cookies, add it in with the vanilla.  It takes these cookies to a whole new level.

On a side note, these cookies really are a favorite of mine and I've enjoyed sharing them with friends and family for many years.  For some reason, though these cookies originated in Winston-Salem, they always remind me of our awesome friends in Seattle.