Homemade Cocoa Fudge

I remember well the evenings when my mom would make homemade fudge.  Not the kind where you melt chocolate chips and add marshmallow cream – mom would have thought of that as cheating!

Typically on a snowy evening, mom would make the fudge base, which is the easy part, because all you do is mix the ingredients and let them cook for a little while.  The hard part was trying to be patient because the fudge needs to cool to room temperature and then we’d endure the long process of mom stirring it with a wooden spoon – always a wooden spoon.  We children fought over who would get to lick the wooden spoon and who would scrape the pan.

Here is mom’s recipe which originally came off the back of a Hershey’s Cocoa can.  I use Callebout Cocoa but you can use whatever type of cocoa powder you have.  The Bad news is: this takes a while to make.  The Good news is: You’ll get a work-out so can justify the calories of enjoying it!

You’ll need a candy/oil thermometer for most accurate temperature reading.

 
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan whisk together:
3 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 can (12 oz.) Evaporated Milk (NOT condensed milk)

Stir constantly until it comes to a nice, rolling boil.  Now, don’t stir at all, but watch it on medium heat and test with a candy thermometer until it reaches 234 degrees.  This process of getting to temperature will take approximately 10 minutes, depending on the heat (and your stove).

  

When it reaches 234 degrees, remove from heat and add:
1/4 cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

DO NOT STIR!  Place the pan on the counter or table and just wait….and wait…and wait…until it reaches room temperature (it took almost an hour!).   Hint: you should be able to touch the bottom of the pan with your hand.

Now comes the work:  Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until it gets thick and starts to lose it’s glossy look (this takes a good 15 minutes).  At this point stir in nuts if you wish (I used walnuts).  Pour into an 8 or 9″ pan lined with foil wrap.

     

Cool completely on the counter.  Refrigerate until set.  Remove the foil and place on a cutting board.  Cut into squares.  Freeze if desired.

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Coffee Cake Muffins

If you want a quick to “whip up” breakfast muffin or after-school snack this one fits the bill!  It tastes like a cinnamon coffee cake but takes a fraction of the time to make.  This muffin is light and airy and the cinnamon streusel begs to be both a filling and a topping.  And why not?  Put the streusel in the middle so there’s an extra surprise of cinnamon deliciousness.

 

This recipe makes 8 muffins.  Freeze any leftovers in a plastic Ziplock bag.  Place in a microwave to “re-fresh” for approx. 20 seconds.

 

 
In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:
1-1/2 cups AP Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
 
In another bowl mix together the wet ingredients:
3/4 cup Whole Milk
1 Egg, whole
1/4 cup Melted Butter
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.  Do not over-mix.  Place one spoonful into each of 8 paper liners.  Sprinkle with topping.  Divide the remaining streusel to top all the muffins.

STREUSEL TOPPING:
Mix all ingredients together to form crumbs:
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tabl. Flour
1/4 cup Butter, room temp.
1-1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Bake in 350 degree oven 25 minutes or until tests done with toothpick.*  Enjoy warm!

     

* Toothpick test for doneness – insert toothpick int he center of a muffin and pull out.  Toothpick should be clean and not wet.

Now THAT was scary!

How about a little snow in October?  Just in time for Halloween, a record-breaking snowstorm hit the northeast.  It began on Saturday with heavy, wet snow.  Since the leaves hadn’t fallen off of the trees, that heavy snow began to break limbs within the first hour!  I was in the kitchen baking cookies and could hear the snapping of limbs all around us and the sound of tires trying to grip the road.  The photo to the right is of the 11″ of snow flattening the trees over lines and across roads in our neighborhood.

Funny story: late Saturday afternoon, right outside of our front door, a car struggled to get up the hill.  The driver went up and down and sideways trying and trying again.  My husband grabbed a coat and went out to help, certain that he could get the car up the hill.   Dear husband decides to help the frightened woman driver and tells her to move over as he made several attempts to get up the hill.  Turns out, the car had bald tires and with no traction it wasn’t about to climb the hill.   My husband decided that she should move her car back into our driveway, off the road, to be safer and he would change her tires all around and that may provide enough traction for her to get home.  While changing the last tire, there was a huge cracking sound and then….huge limbs crashed on the poor woman’s car (barely missing my husband!) crashing onto the hood and shattering her windshield!  Well, he meant to be helpful!  I love how my husband rushes to the aid of others – but, we sure got a laugh out of wondering how the woman explained how the damage happened!

Within a few minutes, our electricity had gone out and the woman was calling for a ride.  We got our electric, heat and water (and computer!!) back last night.  A new recipe post will be up in a couple of days.  In the meantime, stay warm and dry and expect and prepare for a rough winter (I think).

Butterscotch Pudding

Many people don’t bother to make homemade pudding any more, what with instant pudding and cook and serve puddings readily available on the market shelves.  The thing is, pudding is one of those things which can be just as easily made “from scratch” as with a mix.  With Butterscotch Pudding, you’ll notice a difference in color with homemade, as the store-bought mixes have the additions of artificial colors to make it more pleasing to the eye.

Chef and dessert cookbook author, David Lebovitz has an AMAZING recipe for Butterscotch Pudding and I just had to try it.  If the addition of the whiskey is offensive to you, eliminate it, but I will tell you it adds greatly to the taste.  I will say, the only “issue” I have with this pudding is the texture, which is a bit grainy, even after repeated attempts to make it.  But, the texture wasn’t enough to stop me from saying this is a “must try”.

This pudding is very easy and quick to make and is absolutely delicious, especially served warm!  Serves 6.

In a medium sized pan, melt:
4 Tabl. Butter (brown slightly for richer flavor)
 
Whisk into the melted butter:
1 cup packed Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
 
Whisk into the pan:
2 cups whole Milk
 
Combine in small bowl:
1/2 cup Whole Milk
2 large Eggs
3 Tabl. Cornstarch

When the milk is hot, stir a small amount into the egg mixture, whisking so it does not curdle.  Add the egg mixture back into the pan (this is called tempering and helps to adjust the eggs to the heat so they won’t curdle).  Continue to cook until the pudding comes to a boil and thickens.  Continue to cook for 2 minutes after the boil.

        

     

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in:
2 tsp. Whiskey
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
 
Pour the pudding into 6 small serving bowls, or one larger bowl.  If you like the “skin” that forms on top allow to cool as it, but if you don’t, press a piece of plastic wrap down on top of the pudding.  Allow to cool on the counter for a bit, then place in the refrigerator. 

Baked Apples with Apple Caramel

On a cool, fall day, nothing beats the aroma of cinnamon and apples baking.  In fact, sometimes I just place some apple peels, a cinnamon stick and some lemon on the stove in a bit of water to simmer – just so the house smells wonderful (fewer calories that way too)!  After a trip to a local farm, I decided to make baked apples for the family.  Baked apples are easy to make and healthier than apple pie.  these are so delicious, you won’t even miss the rich pastry of a pie.

Not quite a “recipe” but more a method, this makes 4 servings.

 

4 Apples, washed and cored, hollowed out – but not cut all the way through. 
In a small bowl, mix together:
4 Tabl. Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
2 Tabl. Raisins or Currents
2 Tabl. Pecans or Walnuts (optional)

Place the apples in a 8″ X 8″ pan.  Divide the sugar and spice mixture between the four apples, stuffing it down in the hollow.  Place 1 tsp. cold butter on top of each apple.  Pour 1/2 cup of Apple Cider in the pan.  Without covering, place the apple sin a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 40 – 45 minutes or until tender.

        

     

Remove the warm apples from the pan and plate.  Empty the remaining cider into a small pan and on medium temperature, reduce the cider by half.  Whisk in 2 Tabl. cold butter to form the caramel.  Spoon the caramel over the apples and serve.

Banana Layer Cake

Sometimes in life, we make a mistake and find out that it wasn’t a mistake after all.  Recently, I offered to bring a celebration cake to a dinner.  The Birthday celebrants were men, so I chose my go-to favorite: Banana Cake with a Browned Butter Icing.

Since we were a small group, I opted to make only half of this recipe to make a single layer cake.  In full disclosure, I mistakenly added only 1/2 as much butter as called for and I did not realize my mistake until after baking.  All of the guests were told of my “mistake” in advance and all agreed the cake was perfectly moist, and not dry as I expected.  So, if you are trying to reduce fat, feel free to make this same “mistake”, otherwise enjoy the recipe as written!

 
 
In a mixer bowl, cream with paddle attachment:
1 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
 
Switch to the whip attachment and add:
4 Eggs

Whip on high speed for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl mix together:
2 cups Banana Pulp
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2/3 cup Buttermilk
 
In another small bowl sift together:
4 cups Cake Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt

Add to the creamed mixture the dry and wet ingredients alternately, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

     

Pour the batter into 2-9″ cake pans, lined with parchment paper and greased.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 40-45 minutes or until tests done with a toothpick.  Cool completely on a rack.   Run a knife around the edge of each cake pan and remove the cake from the pans.  Fill and frost the cake with the following Browned Butter Frosting:

  

Browned Butter Frosting:

In a small pan, slowly brown:
6 Tabl. Butter, stirring constantly
 
Beat in the mixer bowl using the whip attachment:
2# Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
Browned Butter from above

While mixer is mixing, slowly add 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk to nice spreading consistency.  Ice the cake quickly as soon as the frosting is made as this is a “crusting” recipe (meaning it dries to the touch). I placed walnuts on this cake by cupping them in my hand and pressing against the sides of the cake.

 

Pumpkin Spice Scones

October typically rushes in fall: brightly colored leaves, cool crisp weather, fireplaces and pumpkins.  Our October started out with weather in the 70’s and even 80’s, so I put the pumpkin to the back burner for a bit.  Now, just in time for a cool October morning, comes the pumpkin scone.

This scone is “cakey” not biscuit-y”, but is full of pumpkin and spice flavor ~ perfect with a cup of morning coffee or tea.  This recipe makes 6-8 scones, depending on how you cut them.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
2 cups AP Flour
1 Tabl. Baking Powder
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tabl. Pumpkin Pie Spice
 
Mix into the dry ingredients with fingers:
5 Tabl. Butter, cut into small cubes
 
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients:
1/2 cup Pumpkin, solid (not pie mix)
1/3 cup Half and Half
1 Egg, whole

Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir to form a dough.  Empty the bowl onto the counter and press into a ball and then down into a disk, approx. 1″ high by 8″ round.

         

Transfer this disk to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Use a sharp knife to cut through the dough into 6 or 8 wedges.  Brush the top with half and half and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until tests done with a toothpick.  Serve warm.

Caramel Apples

Do you want to make some child(ren) very happy???  Can you be patient knowing that a big pay-off is coming?  Then you need to make these Caramel Apples!  I know you could unwrap store bought caramels, melt them down with a little water in the microwave and make a caramel for dipping apples, but…do you know how long it takes to unwrap all those little individual caramels?  Actually, Kraft now makes Caramel Bits which is a bag of caramels unwrapped for baking purposes.   Kraft has solved the unwrapping problem, but the taste of homemade caramel far surpasses the store bought.

Making your own caramel from scratch, while requiring some patience, is quite gratifying.  The recipe is simple, the process takes about a half hour, the dipping can be a bit messy…but the result is AMAZING!  Plan now to make these with your loved ones, or maybe for the neighbor kids ; )

Wash, thoroughly dry and place sticks in 8-10 apples*.  (I used wooden chopsticks in mine)  Place the apples on a parchment lined cookie sheet. *Use any crisp apple variety.

In a small, tall pan, melt:
1/2 cup Butter
 
Add to the pan:
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
 
Stir continuously until the above reaches a boil.  Add to the pan:
1 can Condensed Milk (not evaporated)

Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan and while stirring on low heat, bring up to a temperature of 248 degrees F.  The process of getting to the right temp takes at least 20 minutes but more like 30 minutes depending on your stove.   When the temp gets to 248 degrees F, remove from the stove and add 1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract.  Stir to incorporate.

     

Dip the apples in the caramel, turning to coat well.  Place the apples back on the parchment to set.  Roll in garnishes if you wish: nuts, choc. chips, small candies, sprinkles, ,etc..

     

If you have any caramel left, pour it on top of parchment in a shallow pan.  Allow to set up and cut with sharp knife for individual caramels.  OR: wrap it in a plastic bag and re-melt slowly in the microwave for dipping again in a couple of days when the kids start pestering you for MORE CARAMEL APPLES!!!

Pumpkin Praline Dessert

Betty Crocker has a recipe which, while delicious, is confusing because its not quite a cake, a bar, or a pie.  Using canned pumpkin and a cake mix (I know ~ shocking!), it’s actually a combination of those and frankly, I find it better served upside down so that the soft, creamy filling is on top and the praline is on the bottom.  You can serve it any way you’d like, but you will definitely be serving this to your family and guests, preferably with a side of whipped cream!  This recipe serves 12.

For the bottom layer, combine in a bowl and whisk:
15 oz. can Pumpkin, solid (not pie mix)
12 oz. can Evaporated Milk
3 Eggs, whole
3/4 cup Sugar
1 Tabl. Pumpkin Pie Spice (or make your own mix with 1 tsp. each of Cinnamon, cloves and ginger)
 
     

Pour this mixture in the bottom of a greased glass 9″ X 13″ pan.  Spread 1 whole box of Yellow Cake Mix (dry) on top of this filling.

Melt:
3/4 cup Butter

Pour melted butter over the top of the dry cake mix.  Sprinkle the top with 1 cup of Pecans, chopped.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 45-55 minutes.  Cool completely before serving.

  

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Everyone knows a healthy breakfast is a great way to kick-start the day.  On school days, I get the privilege of babysitting my two grandsons and part of my responsibilities is to feed them breakfast.  2-year-old Joey loves pancakes or oatmeal.  This recipe uses both of those breakfast items in one delicious and, as it turns out, healthier breakfast.  Might I suggest you add chocolate chips to the batter in place of the cinnamon for a special treat.

I like to make the pancakes, separate with wax paper and then freeze.  Just pop in the toaster or microwave when needed. This recipe makes about 15 pancakes.

 
In large bowl, mix together:
1 cups AP Flour
1 cup Oats, Old Fashioned
1 Tabl. Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon (or 1/4 cup Chocolate Chips)
 
In another bowl, whisk together:
1-1/2 cups Buttermilk
1 cup Ripe Banana, mashed with fork
1 tsp/ Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
3 Tabl. Butter, melted
 
        
Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Lightly grease or spray griddle.  Pour batter onto hot griddle.  Wait until bubbles show on the entire surface.  Flip over and cook the other side.  To make the tenderest pancakes, only flip over once.
 
  
Serve with butter and or warmed syrup. 
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