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PB ChocolateBark

This is a perfect recipe to show case the gorgeous gold sea salt that Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytales) so generously gave me at Christmas. Admittedly, this recipe is more appropriate for Christmas but what the hay…you get it now. On the plus side, it’ll give you enough time to source gold sea salt! Now this sea salt isn’t just brown made to look like gold, it actually looks like the real McCoy (probably not real gold, though but it’s just as pretty)! I would have liked to pry the top off and get the actual larger chunks but it seems it was glued on so I was out of luck. I can see this gorgeous sea salt on so much more so you’ll likely be reading about it again.

GoldSeaSalt copy

This is the gold sea salt that I sprinkled on the bark

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bark with Gold Sea Salt

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 285 g semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter (just peanuts, no salt, no sugar)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • gold sea salt

Directions:

  1. Slowly melt the chocolate in a double boiler or bain marie, stir in the cinnamon and mix well. Meanwhile, mix the chunky peanut butter and icing sugar well.
  2. Spread the melted chocolate onto a silicon lined baking sheet to about 3-5 mm (just less than 1/4″). Dot the peanut butter onto the melted chocolate and swirl with the blade of a very thin knife. Sprinkle with gold sea salt. Refrigerate until hard and then break into bite-sized portions.
PB Bark

Mmmmm PB and chocolate, a match made in heaven!

Notes:

  • Melting chocolate should always be done very slowly and never over boiling water.
  • I used a natural peanut butter because that is what we have, if you use peanut butter with added sugar and salt, you will need to modify the recipe.

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VeganTruffles_4256

Do not be fooled that these are Vegan, they are surprisingly, incredibly truffle-like.

This is the last of the vegan recipe series that I’m doing for the time being. It was a great experience to cook this way and I’m very happy to have been able to document it. Cooking vegan is not nearly as difficult as I originally thought and like most everything, it’s not always healthy. If I were to be serious about this type of cooking, I would definitely research different types of fats to use because I really did not like the vegan margarine one bit. The blog resource I found is excellent and I would definitely recommend it to anyone cooking vegan.

I have definitely left the best for last, these vegan truffles are the pièce de résistance!

VeganTruffles_4257

Incredibly creamy truffles, just as they should be.

Vegan Truffles

Makes about 3-5 dozen, depending on size

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Belgian chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 tbsp margarine or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp espresso powder + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Espresso powder and icing sugar for rolling in

Directions:

  1. Combine chocolate, coconut milk and margarine in a saucepan and heat until chocolate has melted and mixture is thick. Divide into two portions, about the same volume. Add your choice of flavourings to each portion.
  2. Pour into a bowl , cover with plastic wrap and set in refrigerator overnight (I actually had mine sit a couple of days and it was fine).
  3. Using a melon baller, sprayed with oil or vegan butter,  shape into spheres. Roll into your favourite topping. Store in the refrigerator.

I was completely floored by how authentic these truffles tasted.The coconut flavour was quite subtle, if any and what it brought to the table was total creaminess. I would make these again, even for non-vegans. I think this recipe is totally a keeper and I hope you like it too. These truffles act much the same way as real, cream version truffles so you need not worry about them melting into a puddle.

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Indeed, they are as creamy as they look.

 

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Merry Christmas everyone, I do hope you are all enjoying the season of giving! Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without my traditional baking and I like to change it up every so often and so I’ve added a couple of new items to my existing Christmas Repertoire and one is Sponge Toffee. I began my Christmas baking at the end of November anticipating that I will be busy with the food styling assisting and I am SO GLAD I did because I have BEEN BUSY! I’m ready to take bookings for the new year, so if you need a passionate, determined assistant or recipe tester, please give me a shout.

2013 Christmas Baking Round Up

I made 9 different goodies this year.

I made 9 different goodies this year.

I know the Anzac Biscuit is made only during certain times in Australia, but this delicious oat cookie has become a fast favourite in our home so I like to make the treat for the holidays. And it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies. I also like to include a few Gluten Free options, Mexican Macaroons (which I made using almond flour instead of white flour). Milk and Dark Chocolate Chunk with Cranberries are a favourite recipe from my friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) and this year I added dried cranberries to the batch to make them a little more festive. And last but not least, the delightful Chocolate Crinkle Kisses that really embrace the festive season with the lovely candy cane kiss! I even snuck in some wonderfully easy truffles because I was given 4 kgs of chocolate chunks from a photoshoot, so I really needed recipes that used a lot of chocolate. The truffles are with Chocolate, Chocolate Orange and Chocolate Coconut truffle flavours. I just realized I have not posted this recipe before so I will remedy it over the holidays, they are really easy to whip up. I hope you enjoyed the round up, stay tuned for a few more festive recipes over the holidays.

SpongeToffee_1521

Make sure your baking soda is fresh otherwise it won’t puff up properly!

Sponge toffee is a favourite of mine since my childhood. I remember my Mom buying us a brick and eating it slowly over the course of a day or two. It’s quite decadent and I am so happy to have made it because it brings back so many wonderful childhood memories. This is a simple recipe and you could easily fancy it up by dipping one end into cooled melted chocolate just like that famous chocolate bar! I’ve kept this recipe simple without any extra flavourings, but you can go ahead and add a little vanilla or other extracts to jazz it up.

It’s very easy but you need two essential things: 1. an accurate candy thermometer and 2. FRESH baking soda (bicarbonate of soda). Prepping all the ingredients and equipment is also necessary because once the candy starts to cook, you will need to focus your attention to it.

Sponge Toffee

Makes about 10″ x 12″ x 1.5-2″ thick block. I googled a number of recipes and videos to help make this toffee.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c  golden corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray and lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Mix together the sugar and corn syrup in a large heavy bottomed pan with an accurate candy thermometer attached. Put the pan onto medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves (about 4 minutes).
  3. Cook this syrup until it reaches 300° F (about 10-15 minutes). Your syrup will turn golden.
  4. When it reaches 300° F, remove it from the heat and sprinkle on the baking soda (I found it to distribute more evenly by using a fine sieve), mix gently with a wooden spoon being careful not to over mix because it WILL deflate. This mixture will bubble up a great deal and that’s why you need a large pot.
  5. Gently turn out the bubbling candy onto the prepared cookie sheet and allow it to spread itself; DO NOT push it around, just leave it. The beauty will be the variety of thicknesses. Allow it to cool and harden.
  6. When it’s cool, remove the hard sheet to a cutting board and using the tip of a knife, allow the toffee to break apart in inconsistent shards. Alternate finishes: Dip one end into melted chocolate (slightly cooled).
  7. Store in an airtight container and enjoy responsibly.
SpongeToffee_1522

Sweet, sticky caramel, you old smoothy!

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This time of year the blogosphere is chuck full of tempting recipes and creative ideas, the trick is to try to manage what you want to bake with what you can bake, given your time constraints. Last week, Kelly over at Inspired Edibles (a fellow Canadian) made up a very interesting vegan ‘brownie’ and although her’s looked delightful, I was inspired to make something a wee bit different, dare I say festive, plus it wasn’t necessary for me to keep it 100% vegan.

These are surprisingly good. I have a high tolerance for healthy (or healthier foods) but JT does not; if it doesn’t taste as good as it’s full fat/sugar cousin, he will want no part of it. But I kid you not, these passed even the strictest taste test: the JT taste test. So Kelly, I hope you don’t mind, here is a slight variation on your wonderful recipe, my dried fruit hazelnut truffles, thank you kindly for the inspiration. I used hazelnut butter and hazelnut essence because hazelnuts and chocolate are a winning combo in this household.

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The smooth, sweet centre is nicely contrasted by the rich chocolate and crunchy peanuts.

Dried Fruit Truffles

Adapted from Inspired Edibles’ Vegan Brownies

Makes 50-60 pieces

Fruit Paste Ingredients:

  • ½ c dried prunes
  • ½ c dates
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (I couldn’t find cherries)
  • 1 c almond flour
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut butter
  • ¼ c unsweetened coco powder
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence (or more depending on how strong it is)

Chocolate Coating Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp hazelnut essence (or more depending on how strong it is)
  • 1 ½ cup coarsely chopped peanuts

Fruit Paste Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the fruit paste in a food processor and process until smooth. Make 1-1.5cm balls of the paste, set aside.
  2. Melt the two chocolates and butter in a saucepan over low heat, dip the balls one by one into the hot chocolate and roll in the chopped peanuts to coat. Refrigerate to set. Serve at room temperature.
Don't let these little delights fool you, they are darned tasty!

Don’t let these little delights fool you, they are darned tasty!

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I posted a quick picture of this recipe on Facebook and Pinterest and received overwhelming response so instead of putting it in-line with my Christmas 2012 baking, I thought I would interrupt regular programming and post the recipe today. I did a search and found that I might indeed be the first person to make these all-time Canadian favourites into a truffle instead of their normal bar form. Every year JT asks me to make this bar, which personally I find just too sweet. I got to thinking a smaller, bite sized version might be the answer I was looking for so I came up with this idea and only had to marginally modify an existing recipe. I hope you enjoy it. And if you make them, please do let me know how it worked out.

Almost as teeth tingly as the regular Nanaimo Bars

Not nearly as teeth tingly as regular Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Truffles

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 36 truffles

Inside Layer Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar

Inside Layer Directions:

  1. Cream butter, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Scoop out about 1 tsp and roll into a ball. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Second Layer Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ c graham wafer crumbs
  • ½ c finely ground almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup (spray your measuring cup with non-stick spray and it will slide right out)

Second Layer Directions:

  • Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in graham crumbs, coconut, almond flour and the corn syrup. Set aside.

Assembly Directions:

  1. Take about 1 packed tbsp of the second layer (crumb layer) in the palm of your hand and press to flatten to a large circle about 2mm thick.
  2. Put one custard ball into the centre and wrap the circle around the custard so that it totally covers it. Squeeze the crumb layer to form a tidy ball. Repeat until you have made all of the balls. Freeze for 30-60 minutes.

Chocolate Layer Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter

Chocolate Layer Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat and mix well. Without allowing the chocolate mixture to cool down, take a frozen ball and carefully stick a toothpick or skewer into it and dip into the melted chocolate to cover. Remove the stick and allow the chocolate to set on parchment paper (you could dip a finger into the chocolate to hide the hole, or not). The frozen balls will help set the chocolate faster. Store in refrigerator. Allow the balls to come back up to room temperature to serve.
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The centre is creamy and smooth which is a nice texture to the outside

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Yum.

;

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My friend Kim’s kid LOVES Peeps, and we were going over to see them on Sunday for a casual dinner. So I wanted to make Easter Peep cupcakes. Only I could not find Peeps! 3 Walmarts, several Shoppers Drug Marts (like Walgreens), Zellers (like Target) and on and on! No luck. I WILL NOT be defeated by Peeps!

And then I saw Charlie’s post. My dear blogging friend Charlie of Hotly Spiced made these INCREDIBLE Easter Marshmallow eggs. Really? Home made marshmallows? I thought it was an urban legend! So after a few questions I gave it a try! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pretend my little deformed chicks are anything like Charlie’s gorgeous, elegant Chocolate Covered Easter Eggs, but they are indeed a reasonable facsimile of the ever famed Easter Peeps. And they are marshmallow. And the kid said they taste like them too!
I used a Martha Stewart recipe because it claimed to make less Marshmallows; I still had tonnes left! But thanks to Charlie, I won’t ever be buying marshmallows ever again, that’s for sure!
I actually added about 20 drops yellow food colouring, but it obviously had no effect, so if you want yellow peeps, add more!

Cute and Tasty too. What a combo!

Now be careful. I was warned and now you will be too. I had EVERYTHING at hand and it still happened! Marshmallow cream EVERYWHERE! Too bad it wasn’t Valentine’s Day. I’m just sayin’!

Easter Peeps

Marshmallow recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/3 cup cold water, for gelatin, plus 1/4 cup for syrup
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and sugar, and stir over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and place a candy thermometer into sugar water; wipe sides of pan with a wet brush if sugar crystals have splattered up. Boil sugar until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees).
  3. Remove syrup from heat and add to softened gelatin. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, hand-stir the mixture a few minutes to cool. Place bowl on the mixer stand; beat on medium high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds shape, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Transfer marshmallow mixture to a large (14-inch) pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (No. 11 Ateco) tip, and use immediately or wrap with plastic wrap tightly.

    Click here to get instructions on how to pipe the peeps!
    From Martha Stewart Living, April 2001

Today is the Centennial Anniversary of the maiden voyage (and sadly the demise) of the luxury vessel RMS Titanic. There will be only one more blog about the party today, and I am soooo excited about it. We put together a little memorial booklet and it turned out AMAZING. JT and I will be popping over to Angela’s this morning to drop things off so it’s not as hectic when everyone arrives this evening. It may take a couple of days for me to get the photos together but I’ll post pictures and commentary as soon as I can! Thank you for your support and excitement, I really had not expected it and because of it you’ve absolutely made it for me.

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We were invited over to my friend (boss and neighbour) Sunday for dinner and an unveiling of her newly renovated bathroom. It’s quite exciting, she has been wanting to renovate since she bought the house! I must admit, I am a bit jealous as our bathroom needs renovating too (dark green tiles on the WALLS? WHY? WHY? WHY? I could have lived with white, but why dark green?), but we just did all the windows and the landscaping so it will have to wait. Or if I win the lotto.

It’s Easter Sunday and although we usually spend it with my brother’s family they have opted to head up to their cottage on Lake Rosseau in the Muskokas (you may have heard of it, Goldie Hawn had a place on this lake and Martin Short’s cottage is just down the road from him), Kim kindly invited us for dinner. Since it is Easter, I thought I would make lemony cupcakes. Now I am fully aware of my limitations; I surely do not have the patients for extravagantly decorated desserts as Lorraine, Sawsan and Charlie do (to name a few) so I selected a cupcake which was quite manageable and not overly fussy. I did have a bit of a time with the marshmallows, but that is another story. The cupcake recipe is quite spongy, so if you are looking for a dense cupcake, your in the wrong place. JT liked it well enough that he asked I hold back two (you would think it’s one for me and one for him, but sadly it isn’t, they are both for him!)

The Peeps turned out OK, but my favourite are the little nests!

Lemon Almond Cupcakes

Aren't the little nest adorable?

Original Recipe from Five Roses Flour Cookbook
Should make 12 regular muffin tin cupcake

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (depends on how lemony you would like them)
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 3 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350°F
  2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside
  3. Cream butter gradually adding sugar until light and fluffy; add lemon juice, rind and beaten egg yolks and almond extract.
  4. Add dry ingredients and beat well.
  5. With a clean beater, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.
  6. Add about two tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the batter and beat well (this is to loosen it up a bit).
  7. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
  8. Line your muffin tins with adorable muffin cups; fill cups about 2/3 full (I filled mine too much and only got 10 cupcakes that overflowed the cup a bit).
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  10. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Martha Stewart Marshmallow Frosting

This frosting is really just like Marshmallows, it even toasts up like real marshmallows. I halved the recipe because I didn’t want a lot left over and I still had a tonne left over. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I filled a zip lock baggy with it and put it in the fridge; I’m hoping to use it for the cupcakes for my family next weekend. I’ll update as soon I as I see how well it lasted.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add almond extract, and mix until combined. Use immediately (or cover with plastic wrap).

Me to JT: Hey look, I branded the chargers with the logo. JT to me: Of course you did.

Oh wait, what’s that you ask? Why yes, it is the place card for the upcoming Titanic Centenary Party next weekend. Angela has gorgeous china that will make us all feel we are dining right on that elegant vessel. We’ll have to remember our manners at the dinner table!

To decorate the cupcakes, you will need:

To decorate the cupcakes was quite easy and not at all time consuming. Note: I did one test where I frosted the cupcake and then dipped the icing into the plain coconut, then I torched it with my little crème brulé torch, but the coconut caught fire before I successfully toasted the marshmallow frosting.

Test #2 was more successful I roasted the coconut in the oven (watch carefully), then I frosted the cupcake and torched the frosting a bit to get that nice golden colour (like fire roasted marshmallows). Then, I dotted a bit more of the frosting on the roasted frosting so that the coconut will stick (it doesn’t stick to the roasted bits), then I dipped them into the oven toasted coconut. I dipped the Peeps bottoms and the eggs into a bit of the frosting so they stick to the nests.

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