Homemade Toffee

Homemade Toffee

Homemade Toffee

Toffee is one of my favorite candies.  Last year I used a candy thermometer and everything to make Homemade Toffee, but it didn’t work out like I’d hoped.  It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t eat it, but it was a little burnt.  I think I learned from that and had everything ready this time.  Plus, I saw this recipe, which caught my eye because it said “easy.”  All-in-all, it didn’t take too long, just a lot of stirring.  Making Homemade Toffee can seem intimidating, but you just have to keep an eye on the color and remove it from heat before the color gets too dark and is on the road to being burnt.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup (201 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF and spread almonds on baking sheet with edges lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  You don’t necessarily need the paper or mat for this step, but it’ll make the toffee step easier to just pour it over the almonds already on one of those so they don’t stick.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until they are toasted.  Set aside
  • In a medium/large saucepan, combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt over medium heat.  Melt the mixture, stirring constantly to avoid burning the toffee.  The toffee is ready when it is an almond brown color, about 10-12 minutes.  If you see it change color earlier, remove it from heat so it doesn’t burn.
  • Spread the toffee mixture evenly over the toasted almonds (on the parchment paper or silicone mat).  Sprinkle with the chocolate chips.  Let the chips melt for 1-2 minutes and then spread the chocolate chip layer over the toffee until it’s smooth.  Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
  • Let it cool completely, about 2 hours.  Break it into pieces.  A scraper/chopper is helpful, but a sharp knife could work too

 

Homemade Toffee

Homemade Toffee

This recipe is from DamnDelicious.

Snowball Cookies

Snowball Cookies

Snowball Cookies

I have been making these Snowball Cookies for several years.  Nestle used to sell red and green striped chips, which is where I got the original recipe card.  I haven’t seen those chips in a few years, so I have just changed them to white chocolate chips.  These Snowball Cookies are a great, classic Christmas cookie that melts in your mouth.  They store well in an airtight container.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup (98 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 package of white chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375º and line cookie sheets with parchment paper
  • Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl until creamy
  • Slowly add in flour and mix until combined
  • Fold in white chocolate chips with a spatula
  • Shape dough into 1¼” balls.  A cookie scoop can speed this process along and make it less messy
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned
  • Remove from oven and while Snowball Cookies are still hot, using a sifter or duster, sprinkle cookies with powdered sugar
  • Transfer to wire rack to cool completely
  • Store in an airtight container.  This makes about 4-5 dozen cookies

    Snowball Cookies

    Snowball Cookies

 

This recipe is adapted from Nestle.

Cranberry Bars

 

Cranberry Bars

Cranberry Bars

I was making a dessert platter for a Christmas party and I wanted to add something with a little color.  I’ve never made anything with cranberries, but since it’s cranberry season, this seemed like the perfect time to bake these Cranberry Bars.  The powdered sugar balances out the tartness of the cranberries.  The crust is sweet with a slight crispiness, and the center is nice and tender.  These Cranberry Bars are definitely on my list to make again!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups (302 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups of cranberries
  • Powdered sugar (optional for topping)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350º and line 13×9″ pan with parchment paper
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined
  • Add flour and baking powder, and then fold in cranberries
  • Spread evenly in pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  • When bars are still warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar (you can use a sieve or a duster to make it prettier)

 

Cranberry Bars

Cranberry Bars

This recipe is from Nessa Makes.

Engagement Cookies

Engagement Cookies

Engagement Cookies

My brother-in-law recently proposed to his girlfriend, and invited both families along to watch.  It was a big ordeal with a trolley, a fancy dinner, and group pictures around downtown Chicago.  I made these Engagement Cookies for the party on the night of the engagement.  The pressure was on since this was a very important night and everything else was so well planned.  Sugar cookies are one of my favorite things to make, but they have mostly been with kid-related designs (Star Wars Cookies and Elmo Cookies).  I recently made Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies, and the recipe for sugar cookies and frosting is posted here.

Engagement Cookies

Engagement Cookies

I was sent some pictures from Pinterest as examples.  I am no artist, and stick figures are all that I’m capable of drawing, if that.  I draw stick figures of people doing exercises at work all the time, but piping them on a cookie is a whole different story.  My handwriting is terrible, so piping initials is not my strength.  I used one batch of white frosting to cover the cookies.  I let that dry for at least two hours before moving on to the top layers to keep them from running together.  I used another batch of frosting for the border and stick figures, plain white for the borders, and I used gel food coloring to make black frosting for the stick figures.  I used a Wilton #2 decorating tip for the dot borders and the stick figures.  The stick figures were not as bad to pipe as I thought they might be.  I think a #1 tip would have worked for the stick figures, but I’ve had some problems with the frosting curling with the smaller tips.  I may have made it too thick, but, like I said, these cookies were too important to risk it, and I didn’t have time to redo them.  With the #2 tip, I couldn’t make faces, but sometimes less is more.  I used Wilton Pearl Sprinkles for the ring.  Wilton also has Sparkling Sugar Sprinkles that you could use for the ring; you’ll need to use kitchen tweezers to place the sprinkles so they go where you want them to.  I had some Valentine sprinkles that had hearts for the girl’s hair.  You could also use a flower sprinkle.

Engagement Cookies

Engagement Cookies

 

Mason Jar Snow Globes

Mason Jar Snow Globes

Mason Jar Snow Globes

These Mason Jar Snow Globes were a really fun craft to do with my 5 year old.  We used two different sized Mason Jars to make the Snow Globes.  We picked a couple of ornaments and other Christmas decorating accessories to make some winter scenes in the jars.  You can find the little trees at most craft stores.  I got the presents at a craft store also- I think they were meant to go in a flower arrangement, but I just took the stems out to make a stack of presents.  We never put all of our ornaments on the tree, so if you have extra ornaments you don’t hang on the tree, there’s a free idea to use them in another way.  I had some fake snow left over from a previous Christmas, but you can also purchase that at craft stores.

To make the Snow Globes, first plan out the decoration placement and make sure the Mason Jar will fit over it.  I trimmed the bottom of one of the trees that went with the snowman in the smaller Mason Jar to make them fit.  Use a hot glue gun to attach the bottom of the decorations.  If you have never used a glue gun before, it works really well to make things stick, but you don’t have a lot of time to maneuver things once they’re on there.  Let the glue dry fully before assembling the Snow Globe.  Put some snow into the Mason Jar- you won’t need a lot; if you put too much in, it will cover  your decorations.  Tighten the Mason Jar lid and turn it upside down (the Snow Globe will be right-side up).  If it’s too much snow, take some out and try again.  One thing I would do next time is that if my Snow Globe decorations are on the shorter side, I would prop them up with a little stand of some kind, like a little piece of wood.  The stand will be covered with the snow, so you won’t see it except for when you shake it.  You could paint the stand white so it’s not noticeable.  For the Present Mason Jar Snow Globe, I would’ve especially done this because the snow almost covers the bottom present.  No matter how they turned out, they are a nice Christmas decoration and a fun project to do with kids.

Mason Jar Snow Globes

Mason Jar Snow Globes

Another variation of this would be to make little snow globes with baby food jars.   You’ll need smaller ornaments and decorations, but the same principles apply, and they would be practically free if you’re already buying baby food anyway.  If the lids are a color you don’t like, just spray paint them.

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

I’ve made some other Thanksgiving desserts in the past (Turkey Dinner Cupcakes, Thanksgiving Turkey Cupcakes and Turkey Cookies), and I wanted to try something new this year.  Then I saw this idea for Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies.

I used Joann Chang’s sugar cookie recipe from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery Restaurant and Cafe.  It has been my go-to recipe for sugar cookies and frosting (Elmo Cookies, Star Wars Cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups(300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Frosting

  • 3¼ cups (1-pound box/454 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons milk
  • Orange and brown food coloring (Wilton gels)
Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

Cookies

  • Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes.  Beat the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly incorporated
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture
  • Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap the dough in the plastic wrap, pressing the dough into a disk about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.  Put the dough into the refrigerator for about an hour so it can firm up
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Lightly flour work surface, then place the dough on the work surface and lightly flour it.  Roll to about ¼” thick.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can.  Then using a scraper, cut pie shaped pieces.  I used a 4″ circle and made 6 Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies out of each, but if you wanted smaller cookies you could make 8 slices
  • Bake for 9-13 minutes or until the edges are barely golden brown.  You’ll have to adjust the bake time depending on the size of cookies you make.  Once they are done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely

Frosting

  • Using a hand held mixer or whisk, mix the confectioners’ sugar and milk.  The frosting for the pumpkin pie color can be on the thinner side.  I used an entire batch of frosting for the pumpkin pie color.  Use orange as your base color and add brown food coloring gel to get the pumpkin color.  I ended up having some pumpkin pie frosting leftover, but when you’re mixing a color like that, it’s better to have more because you’ll never exactly match that color again.
  • Let this firm up for at least two hours so the other colors that you will be adding won’t run together.
  • I used another batch of frosting to make the golden brown crust and whipped cream.  You need more stiff frosting for these so they won’t run.  If the frosting ends up too runny, add some confectioners’ sugar; if it’s too stiff, add some milk.  Once you have the consistency you want, set some white frosting aside in a bowl.
  • For the rest of the frosting, use a little brown gel food coloring for the golden brown crust.  When you have the color you want, use the #101 or #104 petal tip in a pastry bag.  With the thin side of the petal tip up, make a “wave” shape across the top of the pie.  Use a toothpick to smooth out the edge when you take the piping bag away.
  • Finally, with the remaining white frosting, using a #16 tip and a pastry bag to pipe the dollop of whipped cream.
  • Let the Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies firm up for several hours before transporting.

 

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Pie Sugar Cookies

Mini S’mores

Mini S'mores

Mini S’mores

I’ve had these Mini S’mores on my list to bake for awhile, and I finally had an occasion to make them for my husband’s birthday last week.  They are a great bite-sized version of the real thing.   They have simple ingredients that can satisfy a s’mores craving without needing a campfire.

Ingredients

  • 7 whole graham crackers (1 cup), finely crushed
  • ¼ cup (33 grams) powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4-1.55oz. Hershey’s chocolate bars
  • 12 large marshmallows

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray
  • In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter
  • Evenly divide the crumb mixture into the mini muffin pan to make 24 Mini S’mores, pressing the crumb mixture to form shallow cups
  • Bake for 4-5 minutes.  While the Mini S’mores are baking, break 2 of the Hershey Bars into rectangles.  When the crumb mixture is ready, place a rectangle in each cup
  • Cut large marshmallows in half, using a knife or scissors dipped in cold water
  • Place the marshmallows cut side down on top of the melting chocolate piece, and place the tray back in the oven for 3-4 minutes.
  • Let them cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tray, and cool completely on a wire rack before dipping.
  • Melt the remaining Hershey Bars in the microwave for 1 -1.5 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds.  Dip the top of the Mini S’more into the melted chocolate and let it set before serving

This recipe is from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen