Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Squares

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Um.  So.  I made these, with thanks to Midwest Living, and then suddenly they were all gone.  A heavily pregnant Atlas had a bunch of them, as did her recently-delivered sister (I guess babies need chocolate?), and then we took them to a Thanksgiving potluck and the cousins discovered them.  And then Rusty ate the rest.  I can’t even remember what they tasted like, they disappeared so fast.  So if you’ve got a Hallowe’en party on the go tomorrow night, this is a good way to incorporate candy into your cookery.  Go for it.

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Now, it’s best to get everything ready ahead of time for this because timing is key.  So.

Take 12 peanut butter cups (that’s four packs of three of the Reese ones) and chop them up.

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And a huge bar of chocolate, such that when you cut it up you get 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate.  You’ll need as well 1/3 cup butterscotch chips.

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Grab 1/2 cup Skor bits (these were my own addition, and I liked them).

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Measure out 2 cups peanuts (salted or unsalted, your choice).

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You’ll also need 2 cups crushed graham crumbs.

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Okay, here we go.

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Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with aluminum foil such that the foil comes over the long edges (and you can use it as a handle later.  Then grab some large flat crackers (the recipe calls for “club crackers,” so I used Sky Flakes) and line the bottom of the dish with enough to cover the whole thing.

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In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup honey, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup whipping cream.

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Bring that to a boil, stirring the whole time.

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Add the graham crumbs and reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook for a full 5 minutes.

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Remove that from the heat and pour in 2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Spread half this thick caramel stuff onto your cracker base in the baking dish.

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Sprinkle on the peanuts and the Skor bits.

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And then the peanut butter cup bits.

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Spread on the other half of the caramel stuff and press enough crackers onto the top to cover it.

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So then it looks like this and you can leave that for a little bit.

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In the bowl of a double boiler or in the microwave, melt together the milk chocolate pieces and the butterscotch chips.

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Add in as well 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter.

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Spread that gloriousness over the cracker top.

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Shake and tap the pan to get the bubbles out, then chuck it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

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When it’s all set, take it out and use the foil handles to remove it from the pan.  Carefully remove the foil.

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Cut these babies into squares and watch them disappear before your eyes!

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Choco-Coco Crisps

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I had pretty much a full package of marshmallows left over from my horrid disaster with s’mores, and a sizable chunk of baking chocolate that needed to be consumed before we left the province.

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So start with a giant pot and your gooey whites, around 40 large marshmallows.  Chuck them in the pot with 3 tablespoons butter and heat that on medium low, stirring frequently.Choco-Coco Crisps 3

While that’s on the go, butter two large baking dishes.

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Chop up about 4oz chocolate (I used milk chocolate) and use your microwave or a double boiler to melt it down.

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When the marshmallows start to melt, you can add in a few tablespoons vanilla extract and a few tablespoons coconut extract.  Be careful, as the alcohol in the extracts will fizz up.  Keep stirring as the marshmallows continue to desolidify.

Pour in the melted chocolate when the marshmallows are nearly entirely melted and remove the pot from the heat.  This will prevent your melted chocolate from seizing.

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Stir quickly until it’s all well combined.

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Pour in about 1 cup sweetened dessicated coconut and stir that up.

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Add in as well 6 cups crisped rice cereal and stir until it’s all evenly coated with chocolate goo.

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Using a buttered spatula or buttered hands, flatten the crispies into the buttered pans, pressing down firmly into the corners.

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Chop up about 8oz chocolate, melt that, and spread it thinly over the top of the crispies in both pans.

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Allow the chocolate to set for a bit, but cut your treats before it’s completely hardened.  Chill to set completely.

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And then, well, you eat them.  Simple as that.

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Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons

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I’ve had a real hankering after macaroons recently, so I decided to fulfill my craving.  And if you’re looking for good, easy, light and airy dessert ideas (gluten-free, too!) for Passover or Easter, this one (with any modifications you like, such as kosher ingredients) would probably do in a pinch.  And it’s a cinch.

Separate 3 large eggs.

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Bring the whites to room temperature by setting the bowl they’re in into another bowl of hot water — just make sure not to get the water where it shouldn’t be.

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Press plastic wrap into the surface of the spare yolks, seal them in an airtight container, and put them in the fridge to use in something else.

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Preheat your oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, plop your 3 room-temperature egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, a sprinkle of salt and 2 teaspoons pure almond extract.

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Whisk those together until it’s all glossy and frothy and the sugar is mostly dissolved.  The frothier you get it, the better your macaroons will stick together and the fluffier they will be.  You won’t get a meringue out of this because you added the sugar at the beginning but you can get this lovely white stuff that works really well.

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Fold in 4 cups sweetened shredded/flaked coconut and 1 cup blanched sliced almonds.  Make sure the egg mixture is fully combined with the dry ingredients.

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I used a soup spoon to scoop these onto the baking sheets and ended up with about 20 cookies.

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Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until they’re a nice golden brown. Allow them to cool completely.

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For a bit more pizzazz, I melted a hunk of white chocolate and another of milk chocolate and dipped half the cookies in white chocolate, and the other in the milk and put them back on the parchment to dry.

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Deadly.

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Delicious Disaster

Well.

I should know by now that experimenting with recipes before a dinner party is not a good idea.  But who else can I experiment on but my hapless dinner guests?

My goal was a dense, gooey, flourless chocolate cake, maybe with a glossy dark chocolate ganache poured over top.  I thought I had found the ideal recipe here.  It had four simple ingredients and no-nonsense instructions.  It even gave me the opportunity to use my kitchen scale, which had long sat unused.  Working in metric is such fun.

I’ll give you the recipe here, and then you can see for yourself how things went horribly wrong.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (that’s about 350°F for those of you who don’t have both measures on your ovens).  Grease (with lots and lots of butter) a 22cm/9″ cake pan and set that aside.

Measure yourself out 250g dark chocolate and chop that sucker into pieces.

Melt that in a double boiler with 100g butter until smooth.  Remove from the heat.

Separate 4 large eggs.  Sift 175g icing sugar into a bowl, add the 4 yolks, and whisk until pale and creamy.

Fold the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.

In yet another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until soft peaks form.

Using a metal spoon, gradually fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture into the greased pan.  Mine nearly filled it, so I put a pizza pan underneath to catch any spills.  I needn’t have worried, it turns out.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the surface begins to crack but the centre is still gooey.

Alas, though the cake baked up perfectly and smelled divine, it wouldn’t come out of the pan, no sir.  Not at all.  I don’t even think lining the pan with parchment paper would have helped.

This is it after it cooled.

I ended up with warm, gooey, dense chocolate cake bits in a pile on a plate.

With three hours until the dinner guests arrived, the Pie said, “Well, you have time to make another cake.”

I gave him a dark look.

“Or,” he says, backtracking, “you could make a trifle?”

Huzzah!  Dessert is saved!  Another floor pizza crisis averted.

Of course, having never made trifle in my life (I save that duty for my mother-in-law, because Mrs. Nice does it so well), I do not own a trifle bowl.  Not to worry, I will improvise.  Though I wouldn’t mind getting a trifle bowl someday, hint, hint …

Trifle is all about the layers.  The traditional version is a sponge cake, usually soaked with some form of alcohol, like brandy or sherry, topped with fruit, custard, and whipping cream in alternating layers.  In a straight-sided container like a trifle bowl you can see all the layers and the effect is quite pretty.

This being a chocolate cake, I thought the custard would be inappropriate.  If I had more time, I would have made chocolate pudding as a substitute for the custard, but I didn’t have the time needed for the pudding to set.  Instead, I opted for a strawberry fruit sauce with drizzled melted chocolate between the layers of whipped cream, and topped with fresh raspberries.  I drizzled a wee bit of Grand Marnier over the cake and let that sink in.

When I made the fruit sauce I added a little bit of corn starch just so it would thicken, and then I made sure to let it cool.

I added butter to the melted chocolate so that when it cooled it wouldn’t be as hard as it was originally.

I also added a wee bit of cream of tartar to my whipped cream so that it would hold its shape better while chilling in the refrigerator.

Then I did my layering …

Gooey cake.  Drizzled chocolate.  Strawberry goodness.  Whipped cream.  Repeat.

Drop a handful or two of fresh raspberries on top and drizzle the remaining chocolate all over and we’re set.

The layering doesn’t look as pretty from the side but we have to sacrifice aesthetics sometimes.  Chill that sucker for a couple hours then feed it to your unsuspecting dinner guests with a sob story about your failed dessert.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This recipe comes from January’s Canadian Living magazine and it was so fabulous that my parents had to take their share to be redistributed at my mother’s physiotherapist.  They are too delectable.

The amounts below give you about 12 cupcakes but of course I multiplied the recipe, and ended up with a variety of mini, medium, and large cupcakes.  Perfect for sharing.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake cups.

Melt about 2oz chocolate (I ain’t gonna try to tell you what kind, you use your judgment) in a double boiler with 1/4 cup strong coffee until melted and smooth.

In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk with 1/3 cup cocoa powder and stir into your melted chocolate/coffee.

In another bowl (this time make it a big one), beat 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until light and fluffy — this will take you about two minutes.  If you do this by hand, well, then it will take you a spell longer.  Be lazy: use a mixer.

Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

In ANOTHER freaking bowl, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon EACH baking soda and baking powder.  Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the chocolate mixture, making three additions of flour and two of chocolate.  Stir that sucker up good until the colour and texture are even.

Divide the batter amongst your cupcake cups.

Bake for about 12-18 minutes, or until a tester/toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about five minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

To make your lovely double chocolate fudgy icing, beat together in a bowl 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Melt together about 2oz each of unsweetened and milk chocolates (or use dark and light, I don’t care), and beat the chocolate into the fluffy stuff along with about a teaspoon of milk. You can add more milk if you like until the texture is lovely and smooth.

Spread that brown goo all over your cupcakes.

Be prepared to see them magically disappear!