Chocolate Covered Cherry Fudge

The angels are singing.

I wanted to send Valentine love to my most favorite people in the universe and fudge is a family favorite.   This is so decadent.  5+ pounds of fudge-love.  When it sits for a couple of minutes before eating, I promise you the white fudge around the cherry gets kinda oozy just like a chocolate covered cherry.  Sublime.  Bad news?  I’m worried about shipping because one of its destinations is a place where a “cold spell” is 80°.  Hum, maybe my most favorite people in the universe need to come here to eat fudge-love.   I think if the white fudge gets too hot during shipping it will become runny because of the moisture in the cherries.  I really think know I did not dry them well enough.  It’s perfect for slicing straight out the fridge and eating, but shipping to a warm climate. . . .    Jiminy Crickets, what to do with 5+  pounds of fudge-love?  This is not part of my “a better me in 2011” plan.  I think I will call UPS and FedEx about dry ice.

This is embarrassingly easy.  I will never win a prize for an original recipe, but dang it, this combo is killer.  Better Half was losing his mind with fudge-love, which is strange because he’s a potato chip kind of guy.

I took 24 hours to make this fudge because I wanted to make sure my white fudge was set really hard.  Next time I’ll make sure the cherries have dried overnight in the fridge before incorporating into the fudge.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Fudge

(Bottom layer: White Cherry Fudge)

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12-oz. package white chocolate chips
1 7-oz. jar Kraft Marshmallow crème
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use homemade)
2 jars (approx. 10 ounces each) maraschino cherries, drained, rough-chopped, and dried thoroughly

Combine sugar, butter and milk in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to boil, stirring constantly, until candy thermometer reaches 234°.  Remove from heat, stir in chips, marshmallow crème and vanilla.  Beat until blended.  Gently fold in maraschino cherries.  Pour into foil-lined 9″ loaf pan.  Allow to cool at least six hours in refrigerator.

(Top layer: Milk Chocolate Fudge)

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12-oz. package milk chocolate chips
1 7-oz. jar Kraft Marshmallow crème
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use homemade)

Combine sugar, butter and milk in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to boil, stirring constantly, until candy thermometer reaches 234°.  Remove from heat, stir in chips, marshmallow crème and vanilla.  Beat until blended.  Remove cherry fudge from refrigerator and using a heat-proof spatula, gently pour and spread fudge (about ¼ cup at a time) on top of cherry fudge.  Allow to cool at least six hours in refrigerator.  Note:  you will probably have leftover milk chocolate fudge unless your loaf pan is extremely tall.  This is not a bad thing. . . .

Happy Valentine’s Day to those I love!

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English Butter Toffee

Four ingredients=OMG

Oh yeah, baby.  This stuff is good.  It’s so scrumptious, easy, and quick that you will never ever buy an expensive box of toffee again.  I promise.  I pinky-promise.  Hear me?  I pinky-promise.

You can make this delicious candy in about 15 minutes.  Throw it in the fridge to cool off, and you’ve got a lovely platter of gourmet candy.

This is my gift to you.  Seriously.  Enjoy the gift.  Ready?

English Butter Toffee

1 c butter (b.u.t.t.e.r.-don’t mess this up!)
1 c granulated sugar
1 c chocolate chips (chunks, slivers, whatever) I used Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet chunks; you can use milk, semi-sweet, etc.
1 c toasted, finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.)

Preheat oven (or use warming drawer) to lowest temperature setting and place a four-sided baking sheet inside.

Meanwhile, combine butter and sugar in medium-sized saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches soft-crack stage (280° on candy thermometer).  Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300° on candy thermometer).  Remove baking sheet from oven and pour mixture on warm sheet.  Using rubber spatula, spread mixture to about ¼″ thickness (it will NOT cover entire sheet).  Sprinkle chocolate over toffee and allow to sit for 2 minutes.  Using spatula, spread chocolate to edges of toffee.  Press nuts (for above, I used a mix of pecans and almonds) onto chocolate.  Cool in refrigerator and when hardened break into desired size of pieces.  Makes approx. 1.5 pounds

See?  You’ll never buy toffee again.  You’re welcome.

Black & Tan Brownies

Oh my, oh my.  I needed a dessert, but I wasn’t feeling too great, so I knew I wasn’t up to being too creative.  There’s where my fav ‘lil baker comes in; let’s here it for the boy:  King Arthur.  King Arthur Flour that is.  It’s my favorite foodie place of all great foodie-love places, and every time I try one of their recipes, it never fails me.  Plus, I’m a sucker for their flours.  I read their catalogs like a 16 y/o male reads Victoria Secret’s catalog.  If only I lived in Vermont and didn’t have to pay shipping costs.  Sigh…  Here is their recipe, but with my tweaks (in red) to change it from KAF’s Fudge Brownies to my Black and Tan Brownies.

Black & Tan Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa Black Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups chocolate chips 12 oz. brick of 36% cocoa, coarsely chopped (pic below)
Homemade caramel sauce (click here for my earlier recipe)

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan

2) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

3) While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.

4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.

5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.  For tan chocolate to show yes, let batter cool.

6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan.

7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

8) Drizzle caramel sauce over brownies.  Now sing its praises!

coarsely chopped chocolate

Apple Cranberry Crostata

Still jonzing for fall. . . .  Better Half was craving grilled chops and while I toyed with making an apple cider/maple glaze for the chops to satisfy my need for all things fall-like, I realized Better Half is a meat purist, so a fall dessert using crisp apples would be better.  (Okay, I really, really like dessert and it has nothing to do with Better Half being a meat purist, even if there is such a thing, blah, blah).  Hence, Apple Cranberry Crostata.

Apple Cranberry Crostata

1 prepared pie crust
3 crisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼″ slices
(tossed with a little lemon juice to prevent browning, if you like)
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  Center pie crust on baking stone or sheet.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and toss with apples to coat.  Arrange apples in a circle on pie crust, leaving a 2″ border free.  Add cranberries on top of apple slices.  Gently fold edges of pie crust over filling.  Dot filling with butter and drizzle with cream.  Bake for approx. 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Enjoy with ice cream or fresh-whipped cream.

And please pray for fall.  I really need it, and secretly you know you want it too.

Rainbow Trout with Mushroom Crab Dressing

I love fishing like a fat kid loves cake.  Or, like I love cake.  I love fishing so much it is one of my favorite things to do if I am given a choice.  When fishing I do nothing but concentrate on fishing (well, and not falling down in the river, which I do; a lot…).   Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces that I love the water and fish so much.  When I was a small child there was a yard in our town that had a “water feature” in their front yard.  I would beg my mother to drive by this house so I could see the fish.  I beg Better Half all the time for a “water feature” to which he proclaims (rightly so), “You live on a river.  That’s your water feature.”   He did surprise me one day with my own personal “water feature” by making the pipes connected to our rain gutters lead off the bluff onto rocks he had strategically placed to look like a mini-waterfall.  It’s quite charming and sort of cute (in a weird way).  I’m blessed.  I have a wonderful family and great friends.   I even think the fish like me which is why they jump onto my line!

You may wonder why, if I like fishing so much, I don’t subscribe to the catch and release trend.  I like to eat fish, and I like knowing the food on my plate is local and wild.  Plus, I caught it, I Better Half cleaned it, and I cooked it.  I know it’s fresh.  I believe in the circle of life, and I know overcrowding, be it people or critters, is not good for nature.  If I keep a fish, you can bet your sweet britches I’ll be eating that fish.  Here’s the fresh rainbow trout Better Half and myself caught and put in our pie-holes within three hours of catching.  Now that’s fresh fish!

Rainbow Trout Mushroom Crab Dressing

I’d like to say there’s a recipe, but alas, no.  But, here are instructions.  We had five rainbow trout.  They were relatively small, so no dressed fish, but fillets worked fine.  Better Half cleaned and filleted the trout.  Meanwhile, I sautéed a small amount of diced onion, diced celery, and chopped garlic in butter/olive oil until partially tender.  Then I added about one cup sliced cremini mushrooms and sautéed until everything was tender.  I mixed the veggies with about 8 ounces cooked crabmeat, about two cups fresh breadcrumbs, about ¼ cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, and put the mixture in the bottom of a buttered casserole pan.  I laid the trout on top,  sprinkled on a few shakes of seafood seasoning, salt and pepper, and then covered them with sliced lemons .  I drizzled olive oil on top and cooked at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until the fish was flaky and cooked in the middle.  Yum.  Now, got catch you some!

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