Make Your Own Marshmallows

Don’t be afraid.  Making your own marshmallows is surprisingly easy.  First, round up your ingredients:

2/3 cup water, divided in half

3 (1/4oz) envelopes unflavoured gelatin (or two packets of 1 tablespoon each)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

pinch kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup icing sugar, for dusting

Spray the inside of an 8 x 8″ pan with vegetable oil (I used a 9 x 13″ pan and it worked out fine).  Generously coat this with icing sugar and set aside.  I took the added precaution of laying waxed paper in the bottom to make removal easier.

Pour 1/3 cup water into the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over top.  Leave to stand about 10 minutes.

In a saucepan off heat, combine the remaining 1/3 cup water with sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Place the pan over medium heat.

Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (don’t let it touch the bottom) and cook the mixture without stirring it until it reads 240°F.

Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash away the residual sugar crystals.  Be careful — this is boiling sugar, after all.

With the mixer on low, very carefully add the hot syrup to the gelatin.

Add in the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high.  Beat for 8-13 minutes, or until the mixture is very stiff, white, and sticky.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan using a lightly oiled spatula.  With wet hands (and I mean SOAKING), press the batter evenly into the corners and smooth the surface.  Allow to sit for about an hour, or until the mixture is firm and cool.

Run a wet knife around the edges of the pan and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. 

Cut the marshmallow into squares of your desired size.  Wet the knife often to make this less sticky.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.  Toss each marshmallow in the icing sugar until completely coated.

Alternatively, you can also toss the marshmallows in unsweetened cocoa (my favourite) or toasted coconut.  You can also fold things into the marshmallow batter (like chocolate chips, dried cranberries, etc.) before you spread it into the pan.

Store the marshmallows in a single layer or in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container for up to a month.That wasn’t that hard, was it?  These were quite popular at the hockey team bake sale.

Peanut Butter Cups

I will never understand the obsession the male half of my family has with peanut butter.  To be honest, if I was never allowed to eat peanut butter again, I would probably live a long and fulfilled life.  Not so for the men in my two families.  Peanut butter is a staple.

This recipe is adapted from Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, and makes 12 large peanut butter cups.

Get your ingredients together:

1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter (I got mine fresh ground at the health food store!)

1 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped chocolate

Have ready 12 large cupcake liners.  Or more.

Chuck the peanut butter, honey, icing sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and mix it up.  I used the stand mixer because I am supremely lazy.  That’s just how I roll.

Take about two teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture, roll it into a ball, then flatten it into a patty that will fit in the cup but won’t touch the sides.  Do the same with the rest of the peanut butter until you have twelve.  Or, if like me, you doubled the recipe, you’ll end up with more than that.

Melt your chocolate.  I think I used more than was required, because I had to melt additional chocolate.  But there’s nothing wrong with that.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of melted chocolate into the bottom of each cup.  Place a patty in the centre of the melted chocolate and tap it into place, but don’t let it touch the bottom.

Spoon an additional teaspoon of chocolate on top of the patty, making sure that the chocolate goes up the sides and encloses the peanut butter completely.

Tap the cup on the bottom to smooth out the tops.  Allow to sit undisturbed for at least four hours for the chocolate to harden completely.  Now wasn’t that easy?

Store up to two weeks in an airtight container.  Do not refrigerate.  ENJOY!

Chocolate Meringues

Happy Birthday Minda!

I love meringues, and they’re something I actually mastered as a young child, though how I had the patience for them I will never know.  The sweet, crispy, chewy lightness of the meringue cookies made it worth the wait.

Recently I’ve been looking at alternative forms of meringue, and other methods of making them.  I made these amazing chocolate mocha meringues last year around Valentine’s Day but of course I can’t remember where I got the recipe from.  Do you remember Kª?  Perhaps it was an issue of Every Day Food.  Who knows …

In an effort to recreate these magic chocolate tasties (and because I had 8 egg whites left over from my foray into vanilla ice cream [post to follow next Wednesday, stay tuned]), I flipped through The Joy of Cooking (2006) for a new take on the old classic.  These ones are from page 741, and I doubled the batch (of course).

Now I’ve mentioned this before, but make sure that your egg whites are at room temperature before you start whipping them.  If they are cold you can always warm them up by putting them in a bowl of warm water.

Preheat your oven to 225°F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mixer, plop in 1 egg whites, 1 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Whisk ’em up at high speed, and add, gradually, 2/3 cup granulated sugar

When you get to the stiff peak stage, you’re done.

Sift together 2/3 cup icing sugar with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and fold it into the beaten mixture as well.

If it’s still a little swirly, that’s okay.

Spoon the mixture onto the parchment and shape it however you wish.

I had enough leftover for a large meringue to make into a sort of pavlova.

Bake it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (seriously).  You can see if it’s done if you can remove a meringue from the parchment without it breaking.

Turn off your oven and prop the door open a bit with a wooden spoon.  Leave it like that for an hour or so (again with the waiting).  The trick with good crisp meringue is to let it cool slowly. 

Store the meringues in an airtight container or wrap them tightly for up to three days.

For my little pavlova, I cut up some fruit for the top: raspberries, strawberries, and grapes.

Then I melted some chocolate in a double boiler.

Plopped the berries on the meringue.

Drizzled the chocolate on top.  It’s pretty much a pavlova, minus the whipped cream.

Extreme Comfort Brownies

I made these brownies at the end of what had been a tough week for some of my friends.  Nothing makes me feel better faster than a gift of comforting baked goods.  Especially if they’re made of chocolate.  This comfort recipe is an embellishment on the traditional brownie, and has an extreme amount of frosting.  It’s fab.  I doubled the recipe here to make two 8-inch pans, but you can halve this easily if you wish.  For this recipe I also used unsalted butter for once, so I did end up adding salt to the mix, which I usually don’t do.  Go with your own preferences on this one.

Line your two pans with foil and spray them evenly with vegetable oil or cooking spray.  Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Sift together in a large measuring cup 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler if you’ve got one), melt 4 squares (1 ounce each) baking chocolate (your preference as to sweetness) together with 2/3 cup butter.

I also had some leftover Nutella lying around so I added that as well, about 4 tablespoons.

When it’s all melted and smooth, remove it from the heat and allow the bowl and its contents to cool slightly before stirring in 2 cups granulated sugar.

Add 4 eggs and beat until blended.  For a lighter-textured brownie, beat the eggs more thoroughly.  For a denser brownie, beat the eggs a little less. 

Pour in 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

Add your flour mixture and stir it up, then spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the pan comes out clean.  Place the pan on a rack to cool completely before lifting out the giant brownie blocks.

Now, you can just leave them plain at this point, or dust them with icing sugar, or you can frost them.  I’m going with frosting.  More chocolate means more comfort.  Honest.

While the brownies are cooling, cream together 6 tablespoons softened butter with 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.  An electric mixer helps with this part.

Alternating and adding a bit at a time, stir in 4 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) and 6 tablespoons milk.  Blend it until smooth and the right texture for spreading. 

I think I added more milk than was required to get the right texture.

When you get it to your preference, add in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix that up as well.

Remove the brownies from the pan and separate them from the foil lining.  Spread the frosting generously across the tops of the brownie.  And I’m serious when I tell you to be generous.

Cut the brownie into small squares and pop them in the refrigerator so the frosting can harden a little.

You can keep them at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for a little while.  Kristopf ate all of the leftovers, however, so I’m not sure how long that little while actually is.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my grandmother’s 86th birthday.  She has a severe allergy to whey, which you find in most milk products, so this dense little chocolate cake has no milk, no butter, and does not even contain an egg.  It’s also super-quick and very easy to prepare.  I got the recipe from The Joy of Cooking (2006 edition, page 723), but I left out the salt, as always.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan, or line the bottom with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used cake and pastry flour because I have tons lying around), 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Add to this 1 cup cold water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Whisk until the batter is glossy and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.

Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for ten minutes, before sliding a knife around the edges and turning the cake out onto the rack itself. 

Let it cool completely before removing to a plate and icing. Frost with your favourite icing, or simply sprinkle confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) over top using a sieve.  I used a lemon slice squeezer (one of the many weird and wonderful gadgets in my parents’ kitchen) to create a fish shape on top of the cake.

Dust the icing sugar over the area you wish to cover.

Carefully remove the shape.

Aaaand you’re done.  Fancy.

Ash’s Mother’s Peanut Butter “Fudge”

I remember making this after a sleepover at Ash’s house, standing with Ash and her mother in their kitchen in the middle of a forest on Vancouver Island.  I haven’t seen Ash in person in about 16 years, but I still have this recipe at the beginning of my magic cookbook, and I think of the cedars outside the kitchen window every time I make it.  The Pie, who doesn’t have this memory, nonetheless loves the peanut butter aspect of this easy peasy sweet treat.

It was kind of like this. (Credit: Marine Eco Tours.com)

This isn’t real fudge, so don’t be deluded here.  It doesn’t require cooking over a hot stove with a candy thermometer at the ready, for one thing.  And it’s like instant pudding in that it’s ready to eat almost as soon as you’ve finished making it.

Which makes it all the more awesome.  I do apologize in advance, however, for the photos.  There’s no way you can make chocolate fudge look like anything other than, well, poo.

Butter a baking dish generously and set it aside.  I have also tried lining a dish with plastic wrap, which works well too, if you’re okay with your fudge looking a little wrinkly.  Waxed paper probably works well too.  In fact, I’m going to try it with waxed paper.

In a bowl, mix together 3 3/4 cups icing sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa.

To this add 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I bought smooth by accident, alas) and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Melt 1 cup butter and stir that in as well.  Use your hands if you have to.  Make sure to get all the icing sugar at the bottom.

Press your fudge mixture into the pan and flatten it out.

I smacked mine around a little with a spoon.

And stuffed some into novelty ice cube trays.  Why not?  Obviously I need more ice cube trays, for variation.

Refrigerate until hardened, about half an hour, before slicing and eating it all.  I like to put mine in the freezer overnight for extra hardness.  If you don’t eat it all, then keep it in the fridge or it will melt.

Creamy Coconut Lime Cupcakes

This is a recipe that I made for the Great Wedding Cupcake Experiment of 2009.  I have recently reinstated a “cupcake collective” at the office and I vowed to bring back this crowd-pleaser as my inaugural bake.

Seriously, this cupcake got so much hype when I brought it in the first time.  It didn’t make the final cut for the wedding but it’s the one everyone remembers with fondness.  I also remember it as being one of the few recipes I made where everything turned out exactly as it was supposed to, which is rare when you’re me.

These pale babies come from page 26 of Susannah Blake’s Cupcake Heaven, and I always double my recipes.  In my notes I took from last time, I found that the cupcakes were best if not allowed to brown, and that I used extra ingredients in the frosting, which was originally too cream-cheesy for my taste.  But that’s up to you.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin pan with baking cups (the amounts are for the single version of the recipe, but the photos show me tripling).

Beat together 6 tablespoons room temperature butter, 2 tablespoons coconut cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl.  The mixture should be pale and fluffy.

Beat in 2 eggs, one a time.

Sift in 3/4 cup self-rising flour (or add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to 1 cup regular flour for the correct proportion and reduce accordingly) together with 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Fold that in.

Add in 3 tablespoons dried shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened, that’s your choice) as well as the grated zest of one lime and stir it in well.

Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons milk.

Use a table spoon to spoon the mixture into the cups, and bake for pretty much exactly 17 minutes until risen and golden.  A toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean.

Flip them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together 5 oz cream cheese (5/8 of a cup if you care, which is slightly over half of one of those 250g packages), 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar for the neophytes), and 2 teaspoons lime juice in a bowl.  As I mentioned above, I ended up adding extra sugar and extra lime juice, but that’s my own preference.

Swirl the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then sprinkle with shredded coconut or coconut shavings in a thick layer.

EAT!

Aeble-what?

I happen to own, because I am that awesome, an æbleskiver pan.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” you ask.

Æbleskiver.  It’s a Danish treat using apple slices (it’s Danish for ‘apple slices’).  They’re like small spherical pancakes/popovers with stuff in them.  It’s a food traditionally served with glogg during Advent.  You might be reminded of the commercial knock-off, Pancake Puffs, which have recently come on the market.  ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS!

I have the pan because my mother gave it to me.  She found it at a second-hand store.  Hers came from a relative.  We use ours to make the family recipe for Molasses Gems (don’t worry, I’ll give you the how-to for those later).

Anyway, I figured I might as well experiment and see if I could put the pan to its intended use.

Peel two apples and chop them into 1/2″ pieces.  I found this made me end up with quite a bit of extra apple, but better to be safe than sorry and you can always serve it on the side.

Your æbleskiver pan is cast iron, and will take a little while to heat up thoroughly.  Put it on the burner at medium high heat and leave it while you do other stuff.  Just remember that the handle will also get very hot, so be careful.  We have these handy silicone sleeves we slip onto our metal handles.  You can pick them up pretty much anywhere.

In another pan, sauté the apples in two tablespoons butter until softened but still firm.  Sprinkle them with cinnamon and set aside.

In a clean bowl, whip two egg whites until soft peaks form and set aside.  The eggs will fluff up the best if you bring them to room temperature first.  To do this I put my eggs in a bowl of warm water before separating them.

In another bowl, whisk together your two egg yolks and one tablespoon sugar until creamy.

In yet another bowl, sift together two cups flour with one teaspoon baking powder.  Slowly add this, alternating with one and one-half cups buttermilk, to the yolk mixture.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Test your æbleskiver pan to see if it’s hot enough.  Butter should sizzle on its surface.  Reduce the heat to medium and drop about one-eighth of a teaspoon butter into each little well to grease.  Use a pastry brush to cover all the sides of the well.

Spoon enough batter into each well to fill it halfway.  Drop in an apple piece and press it down bit. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Fill the wells to the top.

Allow to cook until the edges of æbleskiver turn brown and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Run a metal or wooden knitting needle (traditional method), skewer, or fork around the edges to loosen the æbleskiver and flip it over inside the well. 

It takes a little bit of practice to do this without getting batter everywhere.  By the end of it, though, I had it down.  Allow to cook through until you can give it a poke and nothing comes out stuck to your skewer.

Remove the æbleskiver to a plate and sprinkle with (or roll in) icing sugar or dip in jam to serve.  Maybe try maple syrup.  Or home-made fruit sauce.  You can of course experiment as well with what goes in the æbleskiver – try other forms of fruit, like mango or strawberry or perhaps something savoury like a nice hard cheese.  Here we have it with whipped cream, lemon curd, strawberry jam, and leftover apples.

Make sure to repeat the buttering process each time you put batter into the wells of the pan.  You can keep the cooked æbleskiver warm on an oven-safe plate in the oven at 250°F while you’re making the other batches.

This recipe makes about 28 æbleskiver, which is four batches in my 7-well pan.