Archive for ‘candies’

July 12, 2011

“They’re Not Really Frogs, Are They?”

Happy Potter Week Tuesday!   It seems today is the perfect time to share Pumpercake’s 3rd HP-inspired recipe, as we’re only three days away from the big movie premier!

A recipe for Chocolate Frogs and Peppermint Toads was an easy and obvious choice to include in Pumpercake’s Potter Week festivities.  Whether it be on the Hogwarts Express or in the common room after a trip back from Honeydukes (a sweets and candy shop in Hogsmeade, the wizarding village), Harry and his friends can constantly be found snacking on the reptile-shaped confections or trading their Chocolate Frog Collector’s Cards.

The recipes I’ve included can be used for Frogs and Toads by use of appropriate candy-mold trays, but the recipes can also be applied to any other chocolate-coated shaped candy.  Unlike the Chocolate Frogs served on the Hogwar’s Express food trolly, my Chocolate Frogs are bursting with delicious fillings, like coconut-marshmallow cream and salted peanut butter filling.  Also unlike the Chocolate Frogs on the Hogwart’s Express food trolly, mine don’t magically leap out of their packages or “hop realistically in the stomach.”

Chocolate Frogs & Peppermint Toads

Inspired by: Honeydukes’
“Chocolate Frogs” &
“Peppermint Toads”
-Hogsmead Village

“What are these?” Harry asked Ron, holding up a pack of Chocolate Frogs.  “They’re not really frogs, are they?” He was starting to feel that nothing would surprise him.”
–  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Chocolate Frogs

12 ounces milk chocolate chips

12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

1 batch salted peanut butter filling
(recipe below)

1 batch coconut-mallow filling
(recipe below)

chocolate frog candy molds

–recipe yield: about 24 chocolate frogs,
12 of both filling/chocolate combinations

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the milk chocolate chips.  Over low heat, melt the milk chocolate and remove it from the heat.  Spoon a small amount into each individual frog mold, adding just enough chocolate so that it covers the very bottom of each mold.  Using a small paintbrush, spread the chocolate up to thinly coat all sides of each frog, creating a little hollow bowl-like bed for the filling to fit in.  Place mold tray into the refrigerator to chill for 3-5 minutes, or until chocolate has set.

After chocolate has set, drop about ¾ teaspoon of peanut butter filling into the center of each frog.  Spread the filling slightly so that it is not level with the top surface of the mold tray, leaving room for the top layer of chocolate.  Spoon more melted chocolate into each frog mold, right on top of the filling.   Fill each frog until the chocolate is just level with the top surface of the tray.  Refrigerate or freeze 8-10 minutes, or until completely set and hardened, before removing frogs from the tray.

For coconut-filled chocolate frogs, follow the same directions as above, replacing the milk chocolate with dark and the peanut butter filling with coconut-mallow filling.

Peppermint Toads

12 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1-2 drops pure peppermint extract

1 batch white peppermint filling (recipe below)

chocolate toad candy molds

–recipe yield: about 24 peppermint toads (as my candy molds were very shallow)

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the white chocolate.  Over low heat, melt the chocolate and remove it from the heat.  Stir in 1-2 small drops of peppermint extract.  Spoon a very small amount into each individual toad mold, adding just enough chocolate so that it covers the very bottom of each toad.  Using a small paintbrush, spread the chocolate up to thinly coat all sides of each toad, creating a little hollow bowl-like bed for the filling to fit in.  Place mold tray into the refrigerator to chill for 3-5 minutes, or until chocolate has set.

After chocolate has set, spoon in about ¼-½ teaspoon of white peppermint filling into the center of each frog.  Spread the filling slightly, just so it is not level with the top surface of the mold tray, leaving room for the top layer of chocolate.  Spoon more melted chocolate into each toad mold, right on top of the filling.   Fill each toad until the chocolate is just level with the top surface of the tray.  Refrigerate or freeze 8-10 minutes, or until completely set and hardened, before removing toads from the tray.

Candy Fillings

Salted Peanut Butter Filling

½ cup smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon table salt

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

–makes enough for 12 candies, plus extra

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and  butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat.  When the sugar has been combined, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy, being careful not to over-whip.

Coconut-Mallow Filling

¾ cup marshmallow fluff (my fluff recipe can be found here)

1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut

¼ teaspoon coconut extract or coconut oil

–makes enough for 12 candies, plus extra

Gently combine all ingredients, folding until flaked coconut has been distributed throughout mixture.

White Peppermint Filling

¾ cup marshmallow fluff (my fluff recipe can be found here)

1-2 drops pure peppermint extract

–makes enough for 24 candies, plus extra

Add into the fluff one small drop of peppermint extract and fold to incorporate.  If desired, another drop or so can be added and combined into the filling.

June 11, 2011

S’more Truffles & Even MORE Macarons

As I’ve openly professed my love for all things marshmallow throughout the duration of Pumpercake’s existence, it should come as no surprise to my most loyal readers that I’m also a big fan of s’mores.  Smore’s are one of the only hot desserts that are perfectly acceptable during even the hottest summer nights.  A few years back, there was one summer in particular that Alicia, Katie and I lived solely off of graham crackers, milk chocolate and melted mallow, maybe with the occasional dollop of creamy peanut butter thrown in.  So when our families planned a visit during my last trip to Michigan, I knew I had to create a couple s’mores-inspired treats to pass around as the girls re-told the story of my being too impatient to wait for my metal marshmallow skewer to cool before devouring the mallow and nearly burning off my bottom lip.

Both desserts combine all the elements of the beloved s’more in different ways.  The truffles have crushed grahams and melted marshmallow that make up the base of  the candy, as well as a surprise mini-mallow hidden in the center.  The truffles are finished with a coating of milk chocolate and an extra pinch of crumbs.  The macarons, much sweeter than the truffles, present the flavors of the s’more in a more familiar, sandwich-like display.  Both bite-sized treats were delicious, looked beautiful together, and went over very well.

S’mores Truffles

Inspired by: S’mores

These truffles are most delicious when served cold, straight out of the refrigerator or cooler, if possible.  This allows for the texture of the truffle interior to match that of the marshmallow hidden inside, creating a velvety, homogeneous bite.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

15 large marshmallows

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs*

½ cup mini marshmallows

2 cups milk chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter.  Add in large marshmallows, toss them to coat in the melted butter, and allow them to melt entirely.  Once melted, transfer the mixture to a medium bowl containing the softened cream cheese.  Beat together the melted marshmallow and cream cheese until homogeneous.  Mix in the graham crumbs until completely combined.  Refrigerate mixture for about 10 minutes.  Once the mixture has chilled, it’s time to shape the truffles.  Using a melon-baller or a small cookie dough scoop makes this job a breeze, otherwise, I suggest using a round tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop and measure out the mixture.  Each time a truffle is scooped, place a mini-marshmallow into the center of it and roll the truffle to re-shape it into a ball with your hands.  Once all the balls are formed and stuffed with a marshmallow, transfer them to the freezer to chill for 15-20 minutes.

While the truffle centers are chilling, prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the chocolate chips.  Over low heat, slowly, evenly start to melt the chocolate until it has almost completely melted.  Remove bowl from heat and continue to stir chocolate to melt the remaining solid pieces and to slightly cool the mixture.  Remove the truffles from the freezer to prepare to coat them, one at a time, with the melted chocolate.  I find that the easiest way to do this is to use the fork and spoon method, thoroughly described in another of my candy-making posts, here.  Once each truffle is coated and dropped onto a sheet of parchment paper, they may be dusted with a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs before the chocolate has hardened.  Store cooled, hardened truffles in between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

S’mores Macarons

Inspired by: S’mores

A truly delicious rendition of  the dessert.  Each of the components that make up this recipe can be found throughout Pumpercake.

Chocolate Shells

Marshmallow Frosting

Graham cracker crumbs*

Flaked sea salt

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have been sandwiched with frosting, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush on top of the shells.  Sprinkle a bit of graham cracker crumbs and pinch of flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies.

*Both desserts can also be made gluten-free by use of gluten-free graham crackers crumbs.

May 5, 2011

A Salty-Sweet & Crunchy Treat

When I first started pumpercake, I was overwhelmed by the immense amount of support from friends and family regarding the blog and my baking.  One of the most, if not THE most enthusiastic of those supporters is my mom.  Along with her loving support and pride in my new project, she also offered me a little suggestion for a dessert to try out… some sort of chocolate covered potato chips, inspired by the popular Neiman Marcus chips that she and I used to indulge in a little while back.  Although I thought her idea was great, I’ve been focusing so much on more extravagant and difficult recipes to challenge myself with (like those silly macarons) that I guess it just slipped my mind.  But, when it came time to think up a special something to make her for Mother’s Day, this simple and scrumptious salty-sweet treat was an obvious choice.

To make this quick and easy snack a little more special, I used blend of a few different types of rich chocolate that I knew she’d like and also added a little decorative chocolate drizzle and a sprinkle of coarse salt.  I decided that Pringles would be the potato chip of choice, mainly due to the shape of the chips and the container and the fact that I knew it would make for a super cute presentation.

Happy (early) Mother’s Day to all those wonderful moms out there!  I hope my ‘Mama Lew’ loves her little stack of treats and hope she knows how much I love her.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

Inspired by: “Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips”  –Neiman Marcus

There are no rules when it comes to the types of chocolate to be used for these.  I used the list below to make different blends and layers of flavor, but adapt the quantities and cacao content percentages to fit your taste.  If you plan on drizzling chocolate onto a covered chip, try using a sweeter chocolate paired with a less sweet type, using one as a base and one as a drizzle.

¾ cup chopped dark chocolate       ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips            ½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

about half a container of Pringles   kosher salt (coarse) for sprinkling

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl filled with the chopped dark and semisweet chocolate.  Remove the bowl of almost completely melted chocolate from the double boiler and stir to melt completely.  One at a time, coat half of the potato chips  with the melted chocolate by gently holding each chip with a pair of tongs, dipping the chip in the bowl, and spreading the chocolate with a spatula to evenly coat.  Place each covered chip onto parchment paper, sprinkle with coarse salt, and allow to cool completely.  Repeat this process with ¾ cup of the white chocolate (there will be less white chocolate coated potato chips than dark).

When the chocolate coated chips have been salted and completely cooled, melt the bittersweet chocolate and the remaining white chocolate in separate double boilers to be drizzled.  Drizzle the melted chocolate using whatever your preferred drizzling method is, mine being a pastry or zip-lock bag filled with the melted chocolate with the corner of the bag snipped.  Allow drizzled potato chips to cool (at room temperature or in the refrigerator) before stacking in between tiny squares of parchment paper and stacked back into their original tall container.  Store in the refrigerator to keep chocolate from melting partially onto other chips.

April 8, 2011

Marshmallows & Memories

While students at Michigan State (Go Green!), my roommates, Molly and Ashley, and I developed and embraced a love for everything marshmallow.  Late night marshmallow latte runs were a regular occurrence, bowls of homemade Rice Krispie Treats were shared during movie nights, and birthday cakes were almost always topped with marshmallow frosting.  Molly and I found a bag of marshmallows to be a perfectly suitable substitute for meals, partially because we were broke college students and partially because they are delicious. And it was not uncommon for Ashley and I to cuddle up to a jar of Marshmallow fluff and a couple spoons to start off a Saturday morning.  How the three of us survived four years together without so much as a cavity, I’ll never know.

Now, with Ashley headed to Arizona, Molly in Chicago and me here in DC, celebrations with all three of us sharing birthday cakes with marshmallow frosting will be harder and harder to come by.  Molly and Ashley’s birthdays are a month apart, and I wanted to send them both a little something that they’d love and that would help trigger a few of our fun memories together.  Homemade marshmallows were an obvious choice.  And despite Evan’s comments regarding their appearance, including a comparison to tofu, I think they turned out beautifully.

Homemade Vanilla & Coconut Marshmallows

Inspired by: Marshmallows

-adapted, just a touch, from Dinah Bucholz’s “Marshmallows,”  The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar                    ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup cornstarch                                   1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract*

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin             -optional: toasted coconut**

1 cup ice cold water, divided

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

-special tools:  candy thermometer,  a good-quality electric mixer or stand mixer (preferred)***

Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and coat the parchment with cooking spray.  I used butter-flavored cooking spray, which seemed to really add to the melt-in-your-mouth flavor of the mallows.

In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch.  Sprinkle the mixture onto the lined, greased pan and shake around until bottom and all sides of pan are completely covered with the mixture.  This is important, as the marshmallow will be next to impossible to remove without a well-powdered pan.  Return the remaining cornstarch mixture to the bowl for later use.  If desired, sprinkle the toasted coconut in an even layer on the pan or on a portion of the pan (I did half with and half without).  Set prepared pans aside.

Empty the gelatin into a large mixing bowl along with ½ cup of the water.  Have the whisk attachment of the stand mixer or an electric mixer standing by.  In a small saucepan, whisk together the remaining ½ cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium-high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees.  For an accurate reading, the thermometer should be well-submerged in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the saucepan. My mixture hit 240 after about 7 or 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping and let it incorporate.  

At that point, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan.  Do your best to pour it evenly onto the pan.  I found that the more I tried to spread it or messed with it, the less smooth and whimsical it looked.  Using a flour sifter, dust the top with enough of the remaining cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallow to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallow out onto a cutting board and peel back and discard the parchment paper.  Using a pizza wheel dusted with the cornstarch mixture, cut the marshmallows into squares.  Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

*I’m not normally a stickler for the fanciest, most expensive ingredients, but I would suggest using a higher quality, pure vanilla extract for this recipe.  Upon researching candy-makers’ experiences with marshmallow, it seemed to be the trend that if poor quality or too little vanilla was used, the marshmallows had a funny gelatin taste.  For this reason, I bumped up the vanilla from the suggested tablespoon, to a tablespoon and a half and was happy with the result.
**To toast coconut, sprinkle desired amount of shredded or flaked sweetened coconut in a thin layer onto a cookie sheet lined with tin foil.  Place in a 300 degree oven for about 13-15 minutes, tossing the coconut and checking on it every 4-5 minutes, as it browns fairly quickly.  When finished, it should be fragrant, lightly crisp and a pale, golden color.
***Another common trend that I found upon researching the horror stories of mallow-making was the misconception that an electric mixer that “has seen better days” would suffice for this project.  It seems that many an aspiring marshmallow-maker were left with a burnt-out electric mixer halfway through whipping and, sadly, never got to complete the process or enjoy the finished product. –Now, I must admit, I have an unjustified attitude problem when it comes to stand mixers (I have this crazy idea that using one takes away from all the fun).  So far, in my years of baking, I’ve refused to touch one.  I know that one day, probably not too far from now, I’ll cave and buy one and probably fall in love with it, but for now, I put my faith in my high-powered handheld mixer.  Long story short, make sure that your mixer is up for the task!  Luckily, mine ended up to be a “Little Mixer That Could.” -Special thanks to Kim Botsford, who supplied me with that electric mixer just over a year ago : )

April 1, 2011

Christmas Confections meet Key Lime Creativity

My dad’s favorite dessert has always been key lime pie.  Every year on his birthday, I, being the baker in the family, have prepared for him his special birthday dessert.  Now, it’s not that I don’t like key lime pie… it’s delicious.  But, needless to say, after years of the same thing, it’s gotten a little old.  Sorry, Papa Lew.

Year after year, I’ve found ways to revamp this traditional pie into something a little different, but just as special and just as satisfying to my dear ol’ Dad.  I’ve done a key lime semifreddo pie, a chocolate key lime pie, key lime cupcakes, key lime bars and key lime cookies.  This year, yet again, Dad’s birthday brought about the same challenge as always.  How can I find a new way to deconstruct the delicious flavors of his favorite key lime pie, and transform them into something exciting, different and delectable?

This past Christmas, I abandoned my customary cookie-baking extravaganza, and tried my hand at some simple (I thought) candy-making.  To make a long story short, it was, to put it lightly, a chocolate-covered disaster.  One good thing that came out of the Candy Catastrophe of 2010, however, was the truffles.  Mixtures of dark, white and semi-sweet chocolate paired with a crunch of hazelnut or peppermint provided an indulgent triumph in this, otherwise, disastrous tragedy.  Among the many truffle-fans, was my dad, who seemed to be particularly fond of the chocolate treats.

Upon remembering this, I knew that I needed to revisit the truffles and see if I couldn’t put a whole new, key lime-spin on things.  I came up with a wonderful concoction that balances the rich sweetness of white chocolate with the refreshing tang of key limes and cool cream cheese.  They are my ‘Key Lime Pie Truffles,’…a rich, bite-sized version of key lime pie and a great way to honor the best dad in the entire world.

Key Lime Pie Truffles

Inspired by: Key Lime Pie

2/3 cup key lime juice*

18-20 ounces cream-filled vanilla sandwich cookies**

3 sheets of graham crackers, plus more for garnish if desired***

24 ounces white chocolate chips, separated

8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened

juice and zest of 2 limes

1 teaspoon of honey

optional: yellow food coloring

The first step here is to concentrate the key lime juice. Concentrating the juice helps to intensify the lime flavor and reduce the water in the juice to keep the truffle consistency from becoming watery.  To do this, pour the 2/3 cup of key lime juice into a small saucepan over low-medium heat and bring to a boil.  This shouldn’t take but a couple minutes.  Reduce heat to low and allow liquid to simmer.  While liquid simmers and reduces, occasionally stir it and scrape down with a spatula any pulpy residue that gathers along the sides of the saucepan so that it doesn’t burn. Let the liquid simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until it has reduced by more than half.  Then, remove from heat and transfer to small bowl and set aside to cool.****

Remove the sandwich cookies from package(s) and break up graham cracker sheets along perforations to fit into food processor.  Pulse the cookies and grahams in a food processor until everything is completely crushed and mixture forms a consistency like that of dampened sand.  Set aside.

Measure out 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips to be melted.  As chocolate burns easily and must be melted very gently, I like to use a double boiler.  To do this, place chocolate in a glass bowl that fits over a small saucepan.  Pour a couple inches or so of water into the saucepan, making sure that when the glass bowl is set on the saucepan, the water is not touching it.  Bring water to a boil and allow the steam from the boiling water to gently melt the chocolate.  Stir the chocolate frequently to keep any from settling at the bottom of the bowl and burning.  Once all the chips have been melted, turn off heat, remove bowl from atop the saucepan and set aside to allow chocolate to cool.

Place the softened cream cheese into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cheese until completely softened and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Add the cooled, concentrated lime juice along with the zest and juice from the two limes and beat until well-incorporated.  Add crushed cookie mixture one third a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition.  While continuing to beat the mixture, slowly add in the cooled, melted chocolate.  Drizzle in the honey and continue to mix until mixture is homogeneous and has a somewhat slimy, greasy texture (gross, I know, but the final product will be delicious AND beautiful!).  Scrape down sides of bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Once the mixture has chilled, it’s time to shape the truffles.  Using a melon-baller or a small cookie dough scoop makes this job a breeze, otherwise, I suggest using a round tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop the mixture, and then shaping it into a ball with your hands.  Once all the balls are formed, they will need to be chilled again.  I even suggest placing them in between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container and freezing them.  The colder the truffles are, the less likely that they’ll fall apart when coating them in the melted chocolate, which is quite the disaster (I know from experience!).

After the shaped truffles have chilled for about an hour or so, you can start to coat them with the white chocolate.  I like to do this in batches so that there’s no time for the truffles to become too warm to work with, or for the chocolate to become too cool to coat them.  Melt about a cup of chocolate chips at a time using another double-boiler over the stove.  Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and place it on countertop. Bring out the cold truffles and set them next to the bowl.  I’ve found that the easiest way to coat the truffles is to place the truffles, one at a time, on a small fork, and lower it into the chocolate.  Then, using a small spoon, scoop the chocolate onto the truffle until the truffle is completely covered, and then lift the truffle (still sitting on the fork) out of the chocolate. Let any excess chocolate drain down through the fork, and then set the truffle on a strip of parchment paper.  It’s important to work fairly quickly, as the cold truffle will bring down the temperature of the chocolate.  When the melted white chocolate runs out, or when it or the uncoated truffles start to come to room temperature and are difficult to work with, pop the uncoated truffles back in the fridge or freezer, and melt up another cup of white chocolate.  Repeat the process until all the truffles are coated.  Always have an extra package of white chocolate handy, in case chocolate seizes while melting and can no longer be used.

To decorate the truffles with graham crackers, you should have a bowl of graham crumbs ready to go while you’re coating the truffles.  After every two or three truffles are coated, sprinkle desired amount of crumbs onto each one.  If you wait too long after coating them, the cold truffles will have hardened the chocolate and the crumbs won’t attach.  Another option is to drizzle some colored chocolate onto the coated truffles.  Mix in a drop of yellow food coloring (as key limes are yellow) with a small amount of leftover chocolate, and reheat until chocolate is thin enough to drizzle.  Some people use a fork to drizzle, some insist that a knife or spoon is best.  I find drizzling to be nearly impossible and use a pastry bag.  Experiment and see what works best for you.

*I cheated a bit and used bottled key lime juice here and regular, Persian limes for the juice and zest needed later, just to save myself the trouble of hunting down the key limes (and juicing them all!).

**I chose to make this dessert gluten free in order to share with a friend who is allergic.  I used two packages of Glutino brand Vanilla Creme cookies (about 21 ounces), but one 18 ounce package of Golden Oreos, or any other close substitute will work perfectly fine.
***Again, I used a gluten-free version here, but regular grahams are obviously great!

****Do not be turned off by the syrup’s funny, brownish color.  The sugars in the juice have simply caramelized, and any dark bits are the result of the pulp’s sugar developing.  I promise that this color will not be, in any way, visible in the truffle filling!