SideBar: Frosted Whisky Root Beer

Root Beer Cocktail 19This popped up on my Facebook feed recently and Trav and I decided it was interesting enough that we wanted to try it. That, and root beer is a favourite amongst our set. Root Beer Cocktail 15

First, grab yourself some oranges. You’ll need about four large juicy ones.

Root Beer Cocktail 2Juice those suckers until you get 1 cup fresh orange juice. Root Beer Cocktail 4

Next in the recipe is 1/2 teaspoon cherry bitters, which we didn’t have, so we improvised. I pitted about 5 fresh cherries and mushed them up with a fork. You can use any other kind of bitters you like. We think that it would have enhanced the flavour, but the cherries were a nice touch.

Root Beer Cocktail 7Then we chucked those things in a 1L bottle. Root Beer Cocktail 9

Add in 1 1/4 cup Canadian whiskey (we actually used Maker’s Mark, which is a bourbon, but Trav says it’s a better choice) and 1 cup water. Give it a decent shake and then shove it in the fridge for a couple hours.

Root Beer Cocktail 10When you’re ready to serve, grab some pint glasses, run them (inside and out) under cold water, and chuck them (gently) in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Grab yourself some of your favourite ice cold root beer. We were trying to find Harvey & Vern’s, because it’s local, but this was the stuff they had at the store. Root Beer Cocktail 11

Grab one of your frosted glasses and pour in 3oz of your orange juice/whiskey mix.

Root Beer Cocktail 12Top with root beer and serve immediately. It’s subtle, but it’s quite nice. Root Beer Cocktail 18

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Sexy Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

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Check out these sexy puppies.  I made them as a killing-two-birds-with-one-stone for both Valentine’s Day and Mags’ and Papa John’s joint birthday.  So very very good.

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For the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 12-capacity muffin tin with cupcake liners.  I used fancy schmancy pink polka dot ones.  Because I am that cool.

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Drain a 375mL jar of maraschino cherries, reserving the juice.  Let the cherries dry a bit on a paper towel before roughly chopping them.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 cup fine cocoa.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons cherry juice, 2 eggs, 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 1/2 cup milk.

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Add the flour mixture to the liquid and beat until smooth.

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Fold in the chopped cherries.

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Drop into cupcake cups until about 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool slightly in the pan and then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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I ended up having enough after my doubled recipe to make a wee sheet cake as well.

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For the ganache, in a double boiler, melt together 2 ounces chocolate (your choice) with 1/4 cup whipping cream.  Whisk until fully combined and chill for 30-40 minutes (any longer and you might have trouble spreading it).

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For the icing, we’re going with our old favourite.  Beat together 1 cup room temperature butter with 1 250g package room temperature cream cheese until fully combined and un-lumpy.

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Slowly add in about 2 cups icing sugar (more if you want it more stiff) and a few tablespoons cherry juice (from the jar of maraschinos).

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For the garnish, take 12 cherries, fresh or maraschino (but with stems if you can) and dip them in a couple ounces melted chocolate.

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Let those cool on a sheet of waxed paper until solid.

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To put it all together, take your cooled cupcakes and spread a little ganache on top as a chocolatey base.

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Chuck them in the fridge for a few minutes to set.

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Shove your cream cheese icing into a piping bag and squeeze it out all over your cupcakes.

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Save yourself some heartache and buy a decent bag, too.

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I’m sure you can do a more artistic job than this, but I’m also sure it will taste the same regardless.

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Top with a chocolate-dipped cherry and serve.  SO AWESOME.

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And here’s the sheet cake with the leftover icing.

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Cherry Crumble

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I’m starting to think I should have a section in here just for crumbles, pan-dowdies, buckles, and the rest.  This we found in the paper but due to missing ingredients we changed it enough that we can call it our own now.  This recipe serves four decent bowls of the stuff, so if you want a big one for parties, I’d double it.

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Start with 1 1/2 pounds sweet cherries.

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You’ll want to pit those suckers.  We used this convenient cherry/olive pitter and it was super fun.  Once you’ve done that, preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Spread those pitted cherries in an 8″ x 8″ dish (or the oblong/oval equivalent) and toss them with about 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.  If your cherries are on the tart side you may want to increase the sugar amount.

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In a smallish bowl, mix together 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, 2 teaspoons ground cloves, and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

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Add to that 1/3 cup butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to rub the butter throughout the flour/oat mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

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Sprinkle that stuff all over the top of the cherries in your dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is nice and brown.

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Serve hot or cold — extra good with ice cream.

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Chocolate Cherry Cordials

These wee confections are the favourite treat of both my brother Ando and my father-in-law Papa John so finding a recipe on the internet was a small step towards making a really cool home-made Christmas present for the both of them.  Thanks to Veronica at Recipe Rhapsody for the idea.

These are pretty easy but they are quite time-consuming and you have to be vigilant about your chocolate coating.  You can make your cordials more alcoholic by soaking your cherries overnight in kirsch or amaretto or other liqueur but I prefer my chocolates to be teetotallers.

You will need about 2 10oz jars maraschino cherries in syrup (about 30-40 cherries), which you will need to drain (make sure to reserve some of the cherry syrup while you’re at it, a couple tablespoons’ worth just to be on the safe side).  Plop the drained cherries on a paper towel and pat them dry.

In a bowl, cream together 1/4 cup softened butter and 1 cup icing sugar.

Add in 1 tablespoon reserved cherry syrup, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  Stir it until you get a slimy pink goo.

Stir in a further 1 1/4 cups icing sugar.  You will end up with a nice pale pink dough.  If the dough sticks to your fingers too much you can add more icing sugar.  You need it to stick to itself but not to you.

Lay out a sheet of waxed paper and take a pinch (about 1-2 teaspoons) of your pink dough (fondant) in your hand.  Roll it into a ball and then clap your hands together to make a flattened patty.  Plop a cherry in the centre and pinch the dough all around the cherry.

Roll the cherry and fondant between your palms to create a nice sphere and set on the waxed paper.  Repeat with the rest of the fondant and cherries.  I found I had to make extra fondant to do all my cherries, but that’s fine.  Chill your fondant cherries in the freezer (overnight is good) while you melt your chocolate.

Melt 12oz chopped chocolate (dark or milk, it’s your preference) with 2 tablespoons shortening in a double boiler.  The shortening is there to make the melted chocolate smoother and shinier.  Who knew?

Using a fork, dip the cherry balls into the chocolate and set on waxed paper.

You can see here how the fork marks leave some of the fondant exposed.

Dip a spoon in the melted chocolate and use it to repair the holes.  The cherries have to be completely sealed in chocolate or bad things happen.

When the chocolate has hardened, remove from the waxed paper.  You will find that you have to re-seal the bottoms that were touching the waxed paper as well.  Make sure you get all the gaps!

You can store the chocolates in the refrigerator until they are set, but you will want to store them elsewhere so that they can liquefy like they are supposed to (this takes about two weeks).  Once they are ready, feel free to enjoy!

I think next time I would dip the cherries and put them on a wire rack (to avoid that unfortunate puddle at the bottom) and then, when dry, I would just dip them in their entirety again.  I would probably also be less vigilant in patting my cherries dry, as I think they would liquefy better if they had some liquid in them to begin with.