Southern Belles

Northern cooks can make ’em too!

Better Half and I visited friends to help them put a roof on a rental home they own.  Well, let me clarify: Better Half was going to help with a roof and I was playing around with my buddy C.   These Southern Belles (courtesy of my cookbook Sassafras)  are my contribution to the good folks that volunteered to roof.  It takes maybe five minutes to prepare these caramel morsels.  I also made a few snide comments to some of the guys—those count as contributions too. . . .

C and I had a blast.  We shopped in a little Ozark town and played around on their 100 acres.  We went on a golf ball hunt, (the men love to see how far they can hit the golf balls) which sort of reminded me of an Easter Egg hunt.  Not surprisingly, I found very few while C found a sackful!  We walked around the property quite a bit and listened to the beautiful sound of the water rushing through their cave.  The cave is huge and amazing; archaeologists have visited to find and document Indian artifacts.   C’s husband is awesome at finding arrowheads in the creek and cave.  We played multiple games of dominoes, marbles, and gin rummy.  We made homemade feta and mozzarella cheeses, as well as visiting their workshop where we gals utilized saws, drills, and other myriad “manly” tools and crafted something special for my knitting. . . . (another post!).

We had a lot of fun cooking loads of food for the men and talking until the wee hours.  Oh, we also damaged a few items: an antique chair from France (honestly, I don’t weigh that much!) and C’s thumb (which I’m sure will grow back together.  Thank God she’s an RN!).

Southern Belles

2 c flour
1¾ c packed light brown sugar
1 c butter, softened
1½ to 2 c whole pecans
1½ c chocolate (semi, milk, etc.) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix flour, 1 c brown sugar and ½ c butter until crumbly.  Press on bottom of ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Sprinkle with single layer of pecans.  Combine remaining butter and brown sugar in small saucepan and boil one minute.  Pour over pecans (making a thin layer).  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until caramel layer bubbles.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips, gently spreading as chocolate melts.  Cool and cut into bars.

Enjoy y’all!


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!

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Gooey Meets Crunchy

Since I’ve been on my kick to eat better, get in shape, blah, blah, I haven’t been cooking as usual.  I’ve been jonzing for butter and chocolate.  Enter these amazing cookies.  Don’t be put off by the peppers.  I dislike black pepper but do like cayenne, paprika, chili, etc.; black pepper=ick.  This recipe is courtesy of Cooking Light, but these cookies taste anything but light.  They’re crispy on the outside and fudgy-gooey on the inside with a hint of cinnamon and a little unexpected kick.   Better Half, a man of few words, was very vocal in his admiration, and we’ve decided this is our new favorite !

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

5 ounces bittersweet (60%-70%) chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth.  Cool to room temperature.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.  Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes).  Add egg; beat well.  Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended.  Add flour mixture; beat just until blended.  Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 minutes or until almost set.  Remove from oven.  Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set.  Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.  Optional:  sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar.

Millionaire Shortbread w/ a Twist

A Twix in Disguise

I needed a dessert for company, and after perusing the internet for a bit, I kept seeing posts for Millionaire Shortbread. Never heard of it, but was intrigued after several bloggers likened it to a Twix Bar.  Whoa Nellie!  I’m so a fan of anything in the chocolate candy aisle that I decided this recipe must have been heaven-sent just for me.  It’s a shortbread base, with an embarrassingly easy caramel filling, and to top it off, a lovely chocolate ganache.

Virtually all the recipes were identical with the exception either making a 9″ x 13″ pan of shortbread or basically the recipe being cut in half to make a 9″ x 9″ pan.  Of course, I opted for the bigger version. . . .

I used my easy trick of making shortbread in my food processor (pulse, pulse, done!) and then pressing it into the pan.  Easy peasy.  Made the embarrassingly easy caramel, spread it over the shortbread and popped it into the fridge overnight.  The next morning I made the chocolate ganache and while making it suddenly decided the “Twist” needed to be some freshly grated orange zest.  Mmmm.

Millionaire Shortbread w/ a Twist

½ cup sugar
2-½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2-½ cups all-purpose flour (KAF)
1 large egg yolk
⅛ tsp salt
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (Scharffen Berger)
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Zest of one orange
⅛ tsp orange extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter bottom and sides of 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
Place first five ingredients in food processor and pulse until the consistency of wet sand.  Using your hands and fingers, gently press dough into baking pan.  Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Place condensed milk in large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on 50% power for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook on 30% power for approximately 10 minutes (stirring every 2-3 minutes) or until the milk is thick and caramel colored.  Stir the milk until smooth and pour over shortbread.  Refrigerate until cool or overnight.

In double boiler (or in glass bowl set over simmering water) combine chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Stir mixture and once chocolate has melted, add orange zest and extract, and stir until smooth.  Pour ganache on top of caramel and spread gently to all sides.  Place in refrigerator and chill for approx. one hour.  Allow shortbread to stand at room temperature for approx. 30 minutes for easier cutting.

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.

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