Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Peanut Toffee

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Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday. Ours was pretty quiet, which was good because all three of us got sick, one after the other – always a great way to spend one’s vacation. We have this week left to try to get as many things crossed off our to-do list as possible. We’re not holding our breath that they’ll all get done, but we’ll do our best.

In the meantime, here’s a quick little toffee recipe to help you combat those mid-winter blahs. I doubled the recipe, which I would not recommend, because the toffee sets so quickly it’s hard to get both batches flattened out on the pans fast enough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put it aside for a bit.

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In a heavy saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water.

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Attach a candy thermometer to the side and heat that over medium until it reads 300°F. Try to avoid stirring as much as possible, and if you do, don’t use a metal spoon – wood or silicone will prevent premature crystallization.

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Next to the pot, place a little container of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and another of 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. You’ll need to have those handy at short notice later on.

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While you’re keeping an eye on the sugar, crush up about 1 1/2 cups pretzel twists.I also had some salted peanuts on hand so I crushed and dumped those in as well – probably about 3/4 cup salted peanuts.

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And gather up 1 cup chocolate chips. I mixed mine with some dark chocolate for flavour.

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When your sugar has caramelized and gotten to the hard crack stage (that’s 300°F), remove it from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Try to resist screaming as it fizzes up and gets all terrifying. I promise that will pass.

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EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Toss in the pretzels and peanuts and stir the toffee quickly.

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Then tip it out onto your parchment sheet and flatten it down as much as you can before it starts to set.

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Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the top of the toffee and let it stand for a few minutes while the chocolate melts.

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Then smooth out the melted chocolate with a spatula.

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Sprinkle the top of the chocolate with fleur de sel and let harden in the refrigerator for about an hour.

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Once it’s hardened, break it up into chunks and eat it all by yourself! share it with your friends and family.

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PB & J Gooballs

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These are a great little snack when you’re on the go and need some protein. Or when you are pacing around your house with a small baby and have only one hand to get sustenance. Also good for children as a wee treat when they come home from school (although if you’re going to feed these to children under 1 year of age, replace the honey with maple syrup or something else, because botulism ain’t a joke). They were called “snack bites” on the website where I got the original idea but I think GOO BALLS is a way better term. So gooballs they will be. These ones taste like a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but you can pretty much customize these however you would like.

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Your basic ingredients are as follows: 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup peanut butter (or sun butter, or whatever), and 1/4 cup honey. The rest is up to you.

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I added in a few tablespoons ground flax, for health reasons.

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And a handful of Reese peanut butter chips, for non-health reasons.

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And some freeze-dried raspberries, because I had them on hand and they’re tasty as heck. Any dried fruit will do, provided you cut it up pretty small.

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Assemble all your dry ingredients. I crumbled the raspberries in my hand so they were smaller.

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Tip in the wet ingredients.

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Stir!

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Chill that for about 30 minutes, then take it out and roll a couple tablespoons’ worth of it into a ball. Repeat until you run out.

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Store these suckers in the fridge to keep them firm and less sticky. ENJOY!

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Banana Chocolate Breakfast Cookies

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These popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago and they looked so easy I figured there was no harm in trying them. And they’re fantastic! Switch out the oats for gluten-free oats and you can please those with dicky digestive systems. Replace the chocolate chips with dried fruit or nothing and it’s a great treat for wee folks who are learning how to eat solid foods with their hands. Shove some peanut butter in there and you have a handy dog treat. It’s really a versatile little cookie full of natural sweetness and texture.

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Plus it’s basically only got three ingredients, so it was an instant hit with Cait of chicken-salsa-cheese fame. I used slightly more than three ingredients because I was out of chocolate chips so I made do …

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I doubled this recipe because in a house with a large male and a very pregnant female these bite-sized morsels were simply not big enough. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and lining a large baking sheet with parchment or spraying it with cooking spray.

Grab yourself at least 2 large ripe bananas (this is also a good recipe for when the bananas are just starting to go, and you don’t want to chuck them in the freezer for YET ANOTHER banana bread batch).

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Mash the crap out of those suckers. Not just a little bit of mashing, like you’d have for banana bread, where you want the chunks.

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I’m talking full-on banana soup. Yes. There is no picture. It was too gross.

Add in 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or whatever else you have that you want to use: this is a few spoonfuls each of dark chocolate bar, broken up, Skor bits, and peanut butter chips).

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Now tip in 1 cup oats (a little bit of shredded coconut and some ground flax would be nice here too, I think).

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Stir-stir-stir! Plop flattened gobs of those things on your baking sheet and shove it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

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These bigger ones took about 18), then let sit on the cookie sheet for about five minutes before eating.

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Definitely eat them warm – and all at once!

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Mocha Latte Fudge

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This recipe from Real Simple is not your typical fudge, but it’s relatively easy to concoct and would make a nice gift to your favourite coffeephile. You don’t even need a candy thermometer to make it, which is handy for those of you who aren’t familiar with making candy.

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Do keep a close eye on it, however, as I burnt the bottom of one of my pots quite badly the first time I made it.

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Start by lining an 8″ square pan with parchment paper and spraying it with cooking spray. I had neither a square pan nor cooking spray at the time so I used this 6″ x 10″ pan and I buttered it instead. You do you.

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Set that aside for a spell and grab a large pot. Dump in 1/2-lb butter, 2 cups brown sugar, and 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk.

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Stir that frequently over medium-low heat until it’s all melted and starts to boil.

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Then tip in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon espresso powder. Once that’s mixed in, stop stirring and leave the whole thing to boil (but not burn!) for 8 minutes.

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Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla. Remember, it’s gonna fizz.

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Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes; then grab an electric mixer and beat the crap out of it for about 5 minutes, until it looks and feels like almost-melted peanut butter.

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Spill that into the prepared pan and smooth it down. Shove it in the fridge for 4 hours, until it’s all firm. Run a knife around the outside edge and use the parchment to pull the whole thing out of the pan. Cut it into cubes.

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EAT. (Store leftovers sealed in the fridge. PAH. Like there will be leftovers.)

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Cheesecake Brownies

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More shindig food, so you’ll have to forgive my less than ideal photos – I’ve been doing a lot of night baking and then shoving everything whole into the freezer, so I can’t get the best pictures. So needless to say, these freeze really well. If you want better photos, go to Yammie’s Noshery, which is where I got the recipe.

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Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 2 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and melt those together in a pot until smooth and bubbly.

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Let that cool for at least 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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While that’s chilling out, whisk together 1 1/4 cups cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Set that aside for a wee spell.

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In another bowl, whisk together 8oz softened cream cheese (remember that the warmer it is, the less lumpy it will be), 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg. You may want the hand mixer for this job. Set THAT aside.

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Grab another bowl (so many bowls) and whisk together 1 teaspoon vanilla and 4 eggs.

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Tip in your butter-sugar goo and whisk it until it’s glossy.

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Then tip all that into your flour-cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

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THEN dump in 2 cups chocolate chips and mix those in.

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Smooth all your cocoa batter into the pan. Try your best to dig little troughs down the length of the pan and fill those with the cream cheese batter. As you can see, my best is not the best. My batter was more fluid I think than was intended so the troughs kept filling in. It was like trying to build a sandcastle in a rising tide.

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Then grab a butter knife and cut into the batter, dragging the knife perpendicular to the troughs.

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I hope yours looks better than this.

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Bake for 25-35 minutes (25 for gooey, 35 for non-gooey; mine was in-between) and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

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I can’t wait to eat one of these puppies on Saturday!

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Guinness Chocolate Cake

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It was Krystopf’s birthday last weekend, and, as I do for the fam-dambly, I take on the cake-making duties as a present – the birthday person gets to pick whatever one they want and I do my best. Krystopf picked a Guinness Chocolate Cake, which is a very grown-up sort of cake (he did turn 38 after all, so I *suppose* he’s a grown-up).

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For the cake:

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In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 cup butter.

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Then grab some Guinness.

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Pour 1 cup Guinness (or other stout if you prefer). Keep the rest for yourself. It’s never too early for drinking Guinness, especially if you’re baking.

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Pour the Guinness into the butter and stir it up.

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Allow that to come to a foamy simmer before removing it from the heat.

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Whisk in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

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Let that cool for a little bit.

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In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350°F and butter and flour a 9″ cake pan. This one is springform because I find with fancy cakes it just makes everything easier.

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Now, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 cup sugar.

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In a smaller bowl, beat up 2 large eggs and tip in 2/3 cup sour cream.

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Pour your no-longer-hot chocolate Guinness butter mix into the egg and sour cream mix and stir it up.

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Isn’t that pretty?

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My whisk has a much heavier handle than the whisk part and I always have to remember to take it out of the bowl when I let go of it. This ONE TIME, I forgot. That is chocolate all over my floor.

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Time for a new whisk.

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Now pour your chocolate goo into your flour and whisk until fully combined and smooth.

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Pour that in your cake pan and shove it in the oven. The recipe Atlas gave me said it would take 35-40 minutes, but I found it took closer to 60 minutes to cook all the way through.

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For the filling:

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While that’s on the go, you can make your filling. Slam 8oz bittersweet chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl and top with 2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Plop that over a pot of simmering water and melt, melt, melt!

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Set the finished ganâche aside to cool until it’s the consistency of pudding.

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For the frosting:

Now you can work on the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, dump 1/2 cup room temperature butter and whip that until it’s pale and creamy.

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Slowly beat in 3-4 cups icing sugar.

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If it gets too stiff, add in 3-4 tablespoons Bailey’s or other Irish cream liqueur.

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I also found a little dribble of whipping cream got it to that perfectly creamy, spreadable consistency.

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Cake assembly:

By this time hopefully your cake is gorgeously baked and entirely cool. If not, then you’ll just have to wait a bit longer.

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When it’s ready, slice the cake in half horizontally.

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Take a small spoon to the bottom half and scrape away a bit of the inside.

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Use your fingers to press down, creating a shallow bowl.

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By now your ganâche should look like this.

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Pour that gorgeousness into the little bowl in your cake. I didn’t use all the ganâche here because otherwise I was afraid it would run over the sides when I put the top on. And it did that anyway, so in future I would use all the ganâche and purposely make it run down the sides.

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Put the top on the cake. You can see that the ganâche is already peeking out.

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Spread your icing thickly on top. It’s already pushing the ganâche out the sides so I decided to forego icing the sides altogether and just do the top.

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Then it kind of looks like a poured Guinness with a nice frothy head.

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The final touch was shaving a bit of bittersweet chocolate on top. Serve to your brother or your friends and family. They’ll all enjoy it!

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Chex Blox

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I thought the name I had come up with for these was pretty cute but one of my coworkers objected and decided they should be called “Chexicans” instead, because of the tenuous (maybe) connection of almonds to Mexico. Then he came up with Chex Yo Self, Chex-o-Slovakia (because Nutella was invented in the Czech Republic), and Early Chex Out (“like early check out, because if you eat too many you’ll die at a young age”). Then he arrived at “Dirty Chexican” because it made his fingers sticky. So I told him I would let you guys decide on a name because you are way smarter than he is. Annnnnnd GO!

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In any case, these little blocks of whatever-they-are are well-received wherever you want to take them. Aside from a wee bit of butter (that could be replaced with margarine), they’re dairy free, and the rice cereal makes them totally gluten-free as well. For nut-free folks you can easily skip the almonds. I totally made this recipe up as I went along so there’s no reason for you not to play around with it too!

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I started with a big-ass bowl and into it I dumped a whole box (about 5 cups) Chex cereal. It was the honey-flavoured but you could use plain too. Then went in about 1/2 cup sliced almonds (use any nut you like – these were on-hand), 1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut, and 1 cup chocolate chips. Or about those amounts. I didn’t measure anything. I gave that a good stir.

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Into a small pot on the stove went about 3/4 cup Nutella and 3/4 cup peanut butter. The one picture I didn’t take doubles of is of course the one that turns out blurry.

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I stirred that around until it was fully melted and amazing.

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… okay so this one’s a little blurry too.

In another pot I melted about 2 tablespoons butter.

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Then tipped in a whole package (about 5 cups) marshmallows.

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Stirred that up until it melted. SO GOOEY.

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Then I added the hazelnut peanut butter to the cereal and stirred it for a little while.

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Then went in the marshmallow and that got stirred around.

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I plopped it into a high-sided baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pressed it down into place. You can shove it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process but it will happen on its own on the counter if it’s not too hot outside.

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When it’s hardened you can cut it into blocks.

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Store whatever doesn’t get eaten in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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