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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Magic French Fudge. . .Quick, Easy, Creamy & Delicious!

Fudge is the candy that reminds me of childhood.  It was always a treat.  We would buy little bags containing 3 or 4 pieces for ten or fifteen cents at church bake sales or socials and nibble away at the delicious candy, sometimes for days, until it was gone.  Dad would occasionally make a batch of fudge when we were little girls.  I don't ever remember him making chocolate fudge, though.  What sticks out in my memory is a vanilla coconut fudge that Mom really liked and a strawberry fudge where he added strawberry jam to give it the pink colour and little chunks of candied strawberries.  They were both delicious but sadly, to my regret, lost when my father died.  I've never tried to replicate what he made but have made a few batches of chocolate fudge in my time.  

Fudge can be quite tricky to make without a candy thermometer, especially if one makes it only occasionally.  The sugar, milk and butter have to be boiled to the soft ball stage which is 235 degrees F.  If you don't have that thermometer it's anyone's guess what a soft ball of fudge actually looks and feels like.  Boiled a little too long the fudge becomes hard and sugary.  Not boiled long enough the fudge will never set up (although it make a good chocolate syrup over ice cream).  And then if you do happen to get it right you have to let it cool a little and then beat the daylights out of the mixture until it become creamy and smooth and then you have to quickly get it in the pan before it solidifies.  Only then will you get your fudge.  Ha, ha.  That seems quite the process but it actually isn't that bad after you've mastered the art of fudge making.  Your family and friends won't mind eating your failures and they'll definitly love the successes.

Of course, you can always cheat a little when it comes to fudge and make this lovely, creamy condensed milk fudge.  Technically, for a purist, it isn't real fudge but your taste buds probably won't mind.  It's somewhat softer than real fudge but still holds its shape without refrigeration (unless you live with a heat demon).  It does get firmer the longer it sets.  And it's so quick and easy to make with only two main ingredients and two or three more for interest and flavour.  You may even have all the ingredients in your pantry right now.  

Sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips form the base for this fudge.  You can even use any flavour of chips for variety.  I used chocolate and peanut butter chips but butterscotch, mint chocolate, milk chocolate, white or any of the special flavours that may be found around the holidays can be used.  The longest part to this recipe is waiting for the chips and condensed milk to melt together and then it's stir, mix in additions and put in pan.  Of course, you have to wait for the fudge to set but it's ready to cut and eat in a couple of hours (unless you put it out on your back deck on a freezing cold day).  

The original recipe for Magic French Fudge is from the little recipe booklet "They'll Love It!  Easy Taste Treats with Sweetened Condensed Milk".   It's ages old, probably from the 1970s, but many of the recipes are still on the Eagle Brand Borden website.  This actual recipe is there in a somewhat updated version but the ingredients are exactly the same.  

 The recipe is the middle one on the left hand page.

Magic French Fudge
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (any flavour may be used, as well)
1 can
sweetened condensed milk (14oz or 300ml or 1¼ cups)
Dash salt
1½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chopped nuts, optional (I used walnuts)

Grease an 8x8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper or aluminium foil.  Let the ends of the paper hang over the edge.  Grease the paper or foil.  

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and salt together over low heat.  Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla and nuts if using.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.  Let set in a cool place for 2 or 3 hours.  For easy cutting, remove fudge from pan by lifting out using the overhaning paper or foil. Cut into squares and serve. Store remaining fudge in tightly covered container.

Makes 25-36 pieces.

Prepare an 8x8-inch square pan by greasing and lining with parchment paper or foil.  Grease the paper or foil and let the ends hang over the edge of the pan.

Melt the chips with the sweetened condensed milk using a double boiler.  If you don't have a double boiler, use a heat proof bowl over a pot of water.  Stir the chips occasionally until melted.  On the left:  semi-sweet chocolate chips.  On the right:  peanut butter chips.

The mixture should be creamy and smooth once the chips have melted.  Add the vanilla extract once the mixture has melted together.

Stir in the nuts if using.

I made chocolate and peanut butter fudge.  Clock-wise: Peanut butter fudge, plain and chocolate fudge swirl; chocolate walnut fudge; plain chocolate fudge.  If you have a family member or friend with a nut allergy, remove some of the plain fudge and put it in its own container before bringing out the nuts.

I made half a recipe of peanut butter fudge using the peanut butter chips.  I spread the fudge in a loaf pan and decided to swirl a little of the chocolate fudge over half the mixture. 

After the fudge has set for several hours in a cool place cut and serve or store in an air-tight container.

To cut the fudge neatly, lift the whole piece from the pan using the paper or foil as lifting handles.  You may cut the fudge in 25 or 36 pieces. 

Homemade fudge is a welcome addition to any party dessert table. 
Creamy Magic French Fudge is a special treat for a special occasion!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Spiced Oatmeal Pudding Bake. . . Christmas Morning Breakfast

Spiced Oatmeal Pudding Bake combines plain, old oatmeal with cottage cheese, milk, eggs and a little sugar and spice for a delightful change at breakfast. 
When children, my mother would insist we eat breakfast before we opened our presents that were luringly stacked under the Christmas tree.  We were allowed to open our stockings (during the wee hours of the morning) and eat the fruit but those brightly wrapped presents were taboo until a full, nourishing breakfast had been eaten.  How I hated eating breakfast on Christmas morning.  I don't even remember if we had anything special because I gulped down whatever was on my plate so I could get to my presents and the candy and chips in my stocking.  

When I ran across this recipe a few years ago I immediately thought of Christmas breakfast.  I no longer gulp down unwanted nurishment just to get to the presents and junk food.  I can certainly wait until I've eaten breakfast, if I wish, but I think if you are going to eat breakfast on Christmas morning it should be something special to go along with the day.  And this baked oatmeal pudding just fits the bill.  It looks like ordinary oatmeal porridge in the bowl but it tastes so scrummy you'll think you skipped over breakfast and went straight for dessert. 

If you asked me specifically where this recipe came from I can't tell you because I can't find it anymore.  It came from the internet but I've never been able to find it again after I'd copied it.  The original website has ceased to exist and even if I told you what it was it would be of no help as it was a site where recipes were collected from all over.  All I can tell you is I've had the recipe about 7 years which makes it almost a new one in my files.  Ha, ha.   

If you like raisins add then to the mixture just before baking.  When serving you may wish to mix up the cinnamon sugar for a little more sugar and spice with your holiday breakfast.

Spiced Oatmeal Pudding Bake
¾ cup dry oatmeal
1½ cups milk
2 cups cottage cheese, regular or low-fat
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons sugar (use 8 tablespoons for a sweeter pudding)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup raisins, optional

¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
Milk or half-and-half for serving
Fresh or canned fruit for serving

In a small saucepan, bring the 1½ cups milk to a simmer.  Stir in the oatmeal.  Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.  Lay aside to cool a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 2 litre (about 8 cups) baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, blend cooked oatmeal, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, sugar, spices and salt with a whisk or an electric mixer until smooth. This won't be smooth like a custard because, obviously, the oatmeal will still have its texture.  Add the raisins, if using.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and place in the preheated oven.   Bake for approximately 1 hour or until edges are golden and center is set. This may take a few minutes shorter or longer, depending on your oven.  Remove from oven and let sit about 10 minutes before serving the pudding warm. 

Optional:  Mix the ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon together.   Serve hot or cold, with milk or half-and-half and the cinnamon sugar, if desired.  Fresh or canned fruit also makes a nice addition to the service.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Cook the dry oatmeal in the milk until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Let cool  a few minutes.

Combine the cooked oatmeal, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, sugar and spices together.  

You can do the mixing with a whisk or use your electric mixer.  The mixture should be quite smooth with no large lumps of oatmeal or cottage cheese.  

Place the mixture in a greased or pan-sprayed casserole dish.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 1 hour.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving hot.  The pudding can also be served cold but my favourite way is warm.  

 Prepare the fruit and cinnamon sugar while the pudding is cooling.

If desired, serve the pudding with a little milk or cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a few pieces of fruit.
A good start to a great day.

 A nutritious, but delicious, start to your Christmas Day celebrations.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Chocolate Chip Dessert Cheese Ball is a decadent mixture of cream cheese, butter, brown sugar and  chocolate chips rolled in toasted pecans  Paired with graham crackers or chocolate wafers, this tasty little treat is a real crowd pleaser. 

I found the recipe for this Chocolate Chip Dessert Cheese Ball at  Taste of Home a few years ago and added it to my recipe files.  I've made it several times and each time the plate was licked clean.  I often make it when I need a dessert for a potluck or party because it's way too much for Don and me to eat on our own (but we'd probably try to gobble it down by ourselves).  Another advantage to this dessert is, that aside from the chilling time, it comes together quickly and looks quite showy at the table. 

I've always served this Dessert Cheese Ball with graham crackers and thoroughly enjoyed it that way.  This year I added chocolate wafers to the serving plate and, I must tell you, that was even more delicious and I don't even like chocolate wafer cookies!  Any cookie  you think would be a nice complement to the tangy cream cheese would be an acceptable dipper. 

Chocolate Chip Dessert Cheese Ball
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons packedbrown sugar
¾ cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup finely chopped toasted pecans*
Graham crackers or chocolate wafers or both

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually add sugars; beat just until combined. At this stage if you beat the sugar too much the mixture will become too soft.  Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, minimum. If you can wait 4 hours or overnight you will be able to form the mixture into a ball much easier.  

Remove the cream cheese mixture from the refrigerator.  Scrape the mixture from the bowl and place on a large piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Carefully shape into a ball. Wearing plastic or latex gloves can be very helpful when shaping the cheese mixture into a ball.  Roll the cheese ball in the chopped nuts to evenly cover the surface.  If the ball is very soft refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling in the nuts.  Refrigerate the finished cheese ball until ready to serve.  Remove from refrigerator about half an hour before serving to allow the cheese to soften. Serve with graham crackers or chocolate wafers or both.  

The cheese ball can be made a day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.  Do not place the cookies around the cheese ball until ready to serve.

Makes: 1 cheese ball about 2 cups/16 servings, 2 tablespoons each.

(*If you have a nut allergy, skip the nuts and roll in miniature chocolate chips.)

Beat the room temperature cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until fluffy.  Beat in the icing sugar and brown sugar until just mixed in.  Do not overbeat because the mixture will become too soft.  Stir in the miniature chocolate chips.

Scrape the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours--longer is better.

When the mixture is well chilled, shape it into a ball using waxed paper or plastic wrap to help with the shaping. Have the chopped nuts ready.  
When rolling the cheese ball in the nuts, wearing plastic or latex gloves helps to keep the cheese from sticking to your fingers.  When the cheese mixture gets on your fingers you'll be temped to lick it off and then you'll have to wash your hands and start all over again.  This can turn into a vicious cycle of rolling, licking and hand washing.  

Place the finished Cheese Ball on a pretty serving plate and refrigerate if not using right away.  Cover with plastic if you will be keeping the ball in the fridge any length of time.  

When ready to serve, line the serving plate with your choice of sweet cracker or wafer.  If you don't have a large enough plate, place the cookies in bowls or plates next to the Chocolate Chip Dessert Cheese Ball.

Use a knife or spoon to scoop out a serving of this delicious Dessert Cheese Ball.
Yum!  Have a bite!

Friday, December 09, 2016

Coconut Delights. . . Homemade Chocolate Bars

Coconut Delights are aptly named as they are a real delight for coconut lovers.  Coconut, fruit and nuts are mixed together in a candy syrup and then dipped in chocolate for a tasty homemade confection.  These make a wonderful holiday treat for the family and if you get really proficient in making these bars, they make a great gift from your kitchen.

Mom was a great hand at collecting cookbooks.  She seldom made anything from them, prefering to make her own tried and true recipes mostly inherited from her mother or sisters.  But she did love buying cookbooks and I loved looking through them.  Most of the books were soft covered books bought from the bargain bins at Woolworths or the old Arcade Store in St. John's.  Every now and then there would actually be a great recipe in these books and I've made several of them since starting this blog.(Sugared Orange Yeast Raised Doughnuts, Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust, Eggs and Potatoes with Sour Cream) I wish Mom was around to try them out.  This coconut chocolate bar (same as a candy bar in other countries) is one of those gems.  

Coconut Delights is a recipe found in the Candy Cookbook by J. H. DeGros.  This is almost a textbook on candy making for the serious amature confectioner and not someone like me who likes to dabble about with a few simple candy recipes at holiday times.  As I was browsing through the book I spied this recipe and thought it looked quite easy to make except the original recipe makes four times the amount I have posted.  That's enough to make 50-60 chocolate bars!  As I'm not going into the candy making business I scaled the recipe down to a more manageable amount for the casual candy maker.

The hardest part of the recipe is dipping the bars in chocolate.  The recipe called for tempered chocolate which is a fairly tricky and expensive procedure for the inexperienced amature.  If you'd like to try tempering chocolate there are dozens and dozens and dozens of websites and videos giving detailed instructions.  I've included three links down below in the instructions for melting the chocolate.  I did attempt to temper my chocolate but didn't succed but the bars taste just as good and I've been bold enough to give a few away to the boys for Christmas.  For the ordinary home cook like myself a bag of melted chocolate chips will give a decent finish to the bars.  You will have to keep the bar refrigerated so the chocolate will stay hard but that's not a hardship. 

The only special equipment you'll need is a candy thermometer.  If you don't have one, I'd recommend buying one as it will come in handy for many things during the years.  It takes the guess work out of making even a simple fudge recipe.  You can buy one at Walmart for about $12-$20, depending on how fancy you want.  Mine was about $12 and is quite adequate for my needs.

Coconut Delights
2 cups unsweetened fine or medium cut coconut
½ cup chopped candied (glacĂ©) cherries
½ cup chopped golden raisins
¾ cup chopped toasted pecans

Place the coconut, fruit and nuts in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

¾ cup corn syrup
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water

1 bag chocolate chips, melted for dipping
1-2 tablespoons shortening, oil or coconut oil, optional

Prepare and 8x8-inch square pan by greasing and lining with greased parchment paper. Let the paper hang over the sides for easy removal.

Combine corn syrup, sugar and water together in a medium sized saucepan and cook over medium low heat to 236 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Stir the mixture until sugar has dissolved and then continue boiling until the temperature reaches 236 degrees. 

Once temperature has been reached immediately remove from the heat and pour cooked syrup over the fruit and nut mixture and mix very thoroughly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. DO NOT USE YOUR HANDS AS THE MIXTURE IS SCALDING HOT

Scrape the mixture into the prepared 8x8-inch square baking pan.  Pack the mixture in and smooth the top.  Let cool thoroughly before cutting into bars. You may leave the bars in the pan overnight if you wish. 

Once cooled, lift the bar mixture from the pan and cut into 1x4-inch bars or 1½ x4-inch for fatter bars.  Turn bars upside down to dry.  Let dry 3 or 4 hours.  I let mine dry as long as over night and they have not dried out too much.  

Dip the bars in melted chocolate and let set until hard enough to wrap. 

A simple double boiler: bowl over simmering water.
To Melt the Chocolate: You may use any good chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.  Chocolate will scorch if melted over too high a heat.  Milk or white chocolate must be melted over very low heat as they will scorch quicker than the semi-sweet or dark.  I like to melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. You can see my  simple double boiler: bowl over simmering water.  Do not let the bowl touch the top of the water and don't boil the water, just let it simmer.  Stir the chocolate occasionally to help with the melting process. If using chocolate chips a small amount of shortening, oil or coconut oil may be added so the chocolate will flow better when coating.

If you wish to temper the chocolate, use a good quality chocolate (I use chocolate bars) not chocolate chips.  Bring the temperature of the melted chocolate up to 120 degrees and then while stirring cool below 90 degrees. (Click on the links for detailed instructions.)  This will give you a good hard chocolate surface that dries in just a few minutes.  Here are two good videos on chocolate tempering:  Chocolate-Dipped Anything or if you don't have a thermometer: An Easier Way to Temper Chocolate. Also ABasic Guide to Tempering Chocolate can be found on the King Arthur Flour website.

If you use melted chocolate chips, set the bars in the refrigerator to set.  Unless you have tempered the chocolate, store the bars in the refrigerator.  The bars may also be rolled in toasted coconut.  Let the bars set or ripen 3 days before eating (if you can).

Makes about 16 bars, 1x4-inch each.

Mix the coconut, cherries, raisins and nuts together and lay aside until ready to use in recipe.

Bring the sugar, corn syrup and water to a boil over medium low heat.  Stir the mixture only until the sugar dissolves.  Bring the mixture up to 236 degrees.  Immediately remove from the heat.

Pour the hot syrup over the mixed coconut, fruit and nuts and mix well with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.  Do not use your hands as the syrup is scalding hot.

Prepare an 8x8-inch pan. Grease both the pan and the parchment paper.

Pack the bar mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth the top.  I used the bottom of a measuring cup.  Let the mixture cool in the pan.  I left mine in the pan overnight but that is not necessary.  Lift the cold mixture out of the pan by using the edges of the parchment as handles.

When completely cold, cut into 1x4-inch or 1½ x4-inch bars. 

To make clean cuts, dip the knife in hot water and wipe dry.  Do this for every cut and you will avoid messy bars.

Let the cut bars dry for 3 to 4 hours.  I had to leave mine overnight so I covered them with a clean tea towel.  I cut some bars 1½ inches wide and some 1 inch wide.  I like the 1-inch bars best.

When the bars are dry dip them in melted chocolate.  As you can see dipping the bars is messy work!  This is my attempt at tempered chocolate but it would be just as messy with melted chocolate chips, ha, ha.  I tried to dip using a fork but the bars were too floppy so the hand was the best thing to use.  

Lay the dipped bars on parchment paper for ease of removal.  If you have successfully tempered the chocolate, the bars will set at a cool room temperature.  If you have used chocolate chips you may want to put them in the refrigerator to hasten the chocolate setting.

If you look carefully you can see some streaking on the set chocolate.  This is because I did not achieve a good temper on the chocolate.  This causes the cocoa butter to separate from the chocolate and causes streaking.  The chocolate is perfectly good to eat but does not look as good as a shiny tempered finish.

Let the bars ripen three days.  I don't think I've ever eaten a three day old bar, ha, ha.  They taste good Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and every day!

I got busy and wrapped the bars in foil and made cute little wrappers with my printer.  

For a nice presentation I stacked the wrapped bar into a wooden tray.

Mmmmm.....have a bite of a Coconut Delight.

A delightful homemade coconut chocolate bar.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Raspberry Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars

Raspberry Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars are a crunchy brown sugar shortbread cookie base layered with raspberry jam and a crumbly coconut and chocolate chip topping. A new family favourite!

There's nothing like the desperation of necessity in a baking emergency to bring out that "mother of invention".   So it was this past week when I needed another dessert for our church supper.  I had several cake desserts prepared for the buffet table but wanted a crunchy cookie to balance the soft texture of the various cakes.  As time was marching by in double time I had to hustle to get something made.  I didn't have time to scoop cookies so I decided a pan of squares or bars would be the way to go.  But what to make with the ingredients I had on hand?  And then, like a music composer who hears a new composition in his head, I saw the cookie bars in mine and I just started making them as if I had made them dozens of times before. 

The cookies were well liked at the supper.  A few of ladies were trying to figure out how they were made and asked me for the recipe.  Ha, what recipe. I told them I'd write it out for them so I'm glad I made a mental note of how much and what went into the bars so I could make them again.

As it happened I didn't get to taste the bars until after the supper was over and they were delicious. (I'm glad I did remember how they were made.) The crunchy brown sugar shortbread cookie base was the perfect platform for the raspberry jam and the crumble with the chocolate chips and coconut was just the perfect topping.  

Of course the new recipe needed a name so, ta da,  I give you. . .
Raspberry Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup raspberry jam

½ cup reserved crumbs
½ cup fine or medium coconut, unsweetened or sweetened
½ cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper for easy removal.  No need to grease the pan as there is plenty of butter in the shortbread base.

Beat the butter and sugar together until you have a creamy mixture.  You may do this with your mixer or by hand.  Stir in the flour and salt until you have a soft crumbly mix that sticks together.  Remove ½ cup of the shortbread mixture and reserve for crumble topping.

Pack the shortbread cookie mixture into the prepared pan.  Evenly spread the raspberry jam over the cookie base.  

Make the crumble topping by combining the ½ cup reserved crumbs with the coconut, miniature chocolate chips and the tablespoon of butter.  Spread the crumble topping over the jam.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the the topping is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan.  If you have lined the pan with parchment paper lift the bars out by grasping hold of the edges of the paper and gently lifting out onto a cutting board.

Cut into 24-36 bars using a sharp knife.  Press the knife firmly into the slab. Wipe the knife after every cut to keep the bars neat and clean.  Store bars in a covered container or freeze until needed.  

Makes 24-36 bars.

Beat the butter and sugar together until you have a creamy mixture.  You may do this with your mixer or by hand.  Stir in the flour and salt until you have a soft crumbly mix that sticks together.  Remove  ½ cup of the shortbread mixture and reserve for crumble topping.

Pack the shortbread cookie base into the prepared pan.  Cover with the raspberry jam.

Make the crumble topping by combining the reserved crumbs, coconut, chocolate chips and butter.  

Evenly spread the crumble topping over the jam layer.

Bake 30 minutes in 350 preheated oven until crumble topping is golden brown.

When the bars are cool they can be removed from the pan by lifting the sides of the parchment paper.  

Once the bars are removed cut into 24-36 bars.  Use a long sharp knife and cut down firmly.   Wipe the knife off after each cut to keep the cuts clean.

Store the bars in a covered container until ready to arrange on a pretty holiday plate.

A new family favourite!