Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lesson #73: Maple Pecan Popcorn

Happy New Year! In our home, New Years Eve is a day for for snacking. I whipped this yummy popcorn up while my husband watched a college football game. This is a super easy recipe and is great to munch on in front of the TV.

This popcorn is crunchy, buttery, and nutty. PERFECTION!

LESSON LEARNED: Popcorn is the perfect snack food!

Recipe for Maple Pecan Popcorn

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lesson #72: Chocolate Chip/Walnut Cookies

My love for chocolate chip cookies continues.....

For Christmas, I received a cookbook by pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner (who was most recently seen on the Next Iron Chef America). I think her desserts are really fun & whimsy and one day I aspire to progress my baking skills to plated desserts, so I was super excited to try out her recipes. I started with the very first one in the book: chocolate chip cookies!

Oh my gosh! These cookies are AMAZING! They are chewy, gooey, and have just the right amount nuttiness. I used one of my favorite brands of chocolate chips (Guittard). I think this chocolate has an extremely smooth taste with vanilla notes (just in case you are interested!). They came out perfect! I was in an extra scientific/precise mood when I made these, so I used my kitchen scale. I'll give part of the credit to following the recipe exactly and part credit for the awesomeness of the recipe.

LESSON LEARNED: I'm going to continue to bake out of my new cookbook!

Recipe for Chocolate Chip/Walnut Cookies

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lesson #71: Pavlova with Cranberry Orange Compote

I love the convenience of make ahead desserts around the holidays. I'm usually in charge of making both the savory and sweet components of a meal, so I need all the time I can get.

The AMAZING thing about this meringue and compote is that they can be made several days in advance. You store each part separately and top with meringue with compote right before serving. In fact, I made both components to this dessert three days before we enjoyed it! The meringue is crunchy on the outside and tastes like marshmallows on the inside. The compote is just tart enough to offset the sweetness of the meringue. DELICIOUS!

LESSON LEARNED: Make ahead desserts are a time saver!

Recipe for Pavlova with Cranberry Orange Compote

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lesson #70: Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread

My family enjoyed this bread as part of breakfast on Christmas morning. This wasn't the first time that I made this bread and my mom was very excited when I unpacked it as a surprise on Christmas Eve.

I really enjoy making homemade bread and, for me, this bread is a lot of fun to make. You begin by mixing up the bread dough and letting it rise. Then, you roll out the dough, brush it with melted butter, and sprinkle it with cinnamon/sugar/nutmeg. Next comes the fun part :) You slice it into 6 vertical strips, stack the strips, and cut it again into 6 equal squares. Finally, you stack the squares on top of each other and place them in a bread pan. The end effect is pretty cool and looks tricky to make (even though it's super easy!).

LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes fancy looking bread can be simple to make.

Recipe for Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson #69: Eggnog Ice Cream

As I was thinking of more holiday ice cream flavors, the idea of eggnog ice cream popped into my head. I haven't seen too many eggnog ice creams, so I decided to experiment with my favorite ice cream base. Instead of using whole milk (typically 1.5 cups of whole milk to 2 cups heavy cream), I substituted eggnog. I then added a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to give the ice cream a warm and spicy note. I was a little apprehensive about this idea, but it definitely worked!

This ice cream is a once a year treat. The ice cream is deliciously SMOOTH, CREAMY, and DECEDENT. I think it's best eaten in small quantities, so you can savor every spoonful.

The first picture is right from my ice cream container and the second is a not-so-small serving (it was my husband's -who loves ice cream- bowl!).

LESSON LEARNED: Substituting eggnog for whole milk creates a wonderful ice cream.

Recipe for Eggnog Ice Cream

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lesson #68: White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge

I'm not a fan of drinking eggnog straight from the carton, but when incorporated into baked goods, it's delicious! This fudge combines white chocolate, eggnog, and marshmallow fluff to create a CREAMY, SMOOTH, and CHOCOLATEY fudge. When you sprinkle the fudge with freshly grated nutmeg, it reminds me of the holidays.

Just an FYI...this recipe makes a ton of fudge. I'm not teaching next semester (my husband and I are moving!), so I'm going to be giving away a lot of these baked goods, since I don't have students to feed next semester.

LESSON LEARNED: Eggnog is a delicious addition to white chocolate fudge.

Recipe for White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lesson #67: Butterscotch Candies

I've been on a candy making kick this week! I recently saw a recipe for a cookie that contained pieces of butterscotch candy and was reminded of how much I LOVE butterscotch. Instead of picking up the store bought version, I decided to make my own candy.

Surprisingly, these taste EXACTLY like the store bought equivalent. The whole cooking process was pretty hands off - as long as you have a candy thermometer. One piece of advice while making these candies is to score the candy into the shapes you want to cut while the candy is slightly warm. After the candy completely cools, the candy is easier to cut along the lines to break the candy into similar size/shape pieces. I thought I would share this recipe even though I have big plans to incorporate the leftover candy into a cookie.

LESSON LEARNED: Score this candy while it's warm so it's easier to cut later.

Recipe for Butterscotch Candies

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lesson #66: Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb Candy

After much trial and error over the years, I have finally improved my candy making skills. In graduate school, many errors occurred because my friend and I are did not have a candy thermometer. We decided to "eye ball" our chocolate fudge and peach jam, which respectively became fudge and peach ice cream topping when the candy did not set. Here's my advice to you: invest in a candy thermometer if you want the recipe to work!

I thought these candies would be the perfect addition some homemade gifts I've been making this week. The recipe its self is pretty simple - just water, sugar, and corn syrup. After the sugar comes to the correct temperature (see, this is where the candy thermometer becomes helpful!), stir in baking soda, pour on a baking sheet, and cool. The baking soda bubbles up in the candy and creates a really COOL texture. It looks exactly like honeycombs!

After you break the candy into pieces (this can be messy - see the first picture), I dipped the candy partially in dark chocolate. The candy tastes like a mixture between a caramel and honey. I liked the bitterness of the dark chocolate to offset the sweetness of the candy. My husband doesn't care for chocolate and he liked the candy plain. In any case, this candy is YUMMY!

LESSON LEARNED: Use a candy thermometer!

Recipe for Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb Candy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lesson #65: Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

This past weekend, we had a Christmas celebration at my Grandma's house, so it was the perfect excuse to try another dessert that could easily feed a large crowd. I've been fixated on the idea of trying a peanut butter cheesecake, so here's what I came up with!

I first made a crust out of chocolate graham crackers. Next, I blended a generous amount of peanut butter into my cheesecake batter. Finally, I topped off the cheesecake with a milk chocolate ganache and chopped mini peanut butter cups. The end result was a super RICH and DECADENT peanut butter/chocolate cheesecake. YUMMY!

LESSON LEARNED: Holidays are the perfect time to bake rich and decadent desserts!

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lesson #64: Gingerbread Cookies

I'm pretty particular about gingerbread cookies. I like the cookies to be more spicy than sweet; soft than hard; thicker than thinner. I first made this recipe last year and thought these were great! By adding molasses and milk, these cookies stay super soft for days!

The only tricky thing about this cookie dough is that is MUST be chilled before you can roll & cut the cookie dough. If you don't you will have a sticky mess on your counter top.  

LESSON LEARNED: Soft gingerbread cookies rock!

Recipe for Gingerbread Cookies

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lesson #63: Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

I think that chocolate and mint are a WONDERFUL combination. I'm especially partial to peppermint patty candies, so encasing this candy around a chocolate cookie sounded like something I had to try out.

These cookies are soft and tender with a nice chocolatey flavor. The peppermint candy nicely holds its shape once it cools. I would recommend double checking to make sure the dough completely wraps around the candy - if you don't - the peppermint will spread onto the baking sheet as it cooks. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything :)

I packaged up the cookies for my class after I drizzled them melted white chocolate and red sprinkles.

LESSON LEARNED: Chocolate and peppermint combine to produce a very tasty cookie!

Recipe for Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lesson #62: Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

Are you looking for a dessert to add to your holiday cookie platter? Look no further! These YUMMY bites are super easy to make and only require 3 ingredients: a package of Oreo cookies, one 8 oz. package of cream cheese, and melted chocolate.

These chocolate received GLOWING reviews from my students and husband (who usually doesn't care much for chocolate desserts). The tangy-ness of the cream cheese nicely offsets the sweet cookies and you can dip them in whatever type of chocolate you prefer (I used milk chocolate). Enjoy! 

LESSON LEARNED: Desserts with only a few ingredients can be wonderful!

Recipe for Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lesson #61: Candy Cane Ice Cream

I've mentioned this before, but to re-iterate, my husband LOVES ice cream! I was out of town last weekend and there was no ice cream in the house, so he (gasp!) bought ice cream. I came home, saw the Ben & Jerry's in the freezer, and knew I should definitely make ice cream this week.

Since there's a ton of candy canes in the stores right now, this was my inspiration for the ice cream. First, I melted candy cane into the custard base for the ice cream. As I was churning the ice cream, I intensified the candy cane flavor by adding additional crushed candy canes. Finally, I added a few drops of red food coloring to make the ice cream look extra festive. DELICIOUS!

LESSON LEARNED: Homemade ice cream beats store-bought ice cream any day!

Recipe for Candy Cane Ice Cream

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lesson #60: Apple Brown Betty

I've never had apple brown betty, so when I saw this recipe in my America's Test Kitchen cookbook, I thought I would give it a shot. From what I understand, this dessert was pretty popular years ago. When I asked my mom about this, she said that my grandma used to make it all the time.

As far as desserts go, this is a relatively healthy dessert. There's not too much added sugar or butter. My husband described it as an applesauce with a crunchy topping  and I think that's pretty accurate. This would be amazing as an ice cream (less healthy) or yogurt (more healthy) topping. In any case, it was pretty simple to make since you sauce the apples in a skillet on the stove top. I was feeling super speedy the day I made it and finished under 20 minutes :)

LESSON LEARNED: This recipe is a blast from the past!

Recipe for Apple Brown Betty

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lesson #59: Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

I made up this cheesecake recipe on a whim this week. Blueberries were on sale in the grocery store and I thought they would be perfect in a cheesecake.

I first decided to make cupcake sized cheesecakes so they were in single portions and less messy to cut. I whipped up a standard cheesecake base, swirled blueberry puree on top, baked, and cooled the cheesecakes. To top off the cheesecakes, I made a blueberry compote! YUM!

LESSON LEARNED: Make small size cheesecakes for easy serving (no cutting involved!).

Recipe for Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lesson #58: Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few people gave me suggestions about variations in the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. One suggestion was using a mixture of butter and shortening. I also made the cookies considerably smaller than my previous post.

These little cookies are super ADDICTIVE! They are crunchy, yet gooey in the center. YUM! It's very easy to eat a few of these at a time. This recipe also makes  A LOT of cookies....I gave some to a class, my brother, and a bunch for our house.

LESSON LEARNED: Chocolate chip cookies have a ton of variations!

Recipe for Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lesson #57: Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Justin has been asking me to try new ice cream flavors! BTW, I'm planning on having an ice cream tasting party next summer, so everyone will be able to try all the flavors I invent. :)

I thought peanut butter ice cream sounded interesting, and I've never had peanut ice cream before, so I used my favorite ice cream base and added peanut butter.

This flavor of ice cream is definitely a keeper! It's super YUMMY! I added some marshmallow fluff during the last minutes of churning and I'm sure chocolate chips would be a great addition as well.

LESSON LEARNED: Thinking creatively about ice cream flavors has delicious results.

Recipe for Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lesson #56: Blondie with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

These cookie bars slowly grew on me after I made them yesterday. They are pretty messy to try cut, and at first, I was turned off by this. I would describe them as breaking apart better than evenly cutting apart. Even though they aren't the prettiest dessert I've made, these bars are surprisingly ADDICTIVE.

First, there is a layer of gooey brown sugar blondie. Then, peanuts are roasted in the oven, mixed in with pretzels and tossed with a homemade caramel. This mixture is generously poured over the blondies. The result is a salty & sweet dessert with multiple textures from the blondies, peanuts, and pretzels.

LESSON LEARNED: Messy desserts taste good too!

Recipe for Blondie with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lesson #55: Hot Chocolate Cookies

Even though it's been unseasonably warm the past few days, I've been getting into the holiday spirit. I saw these cute cookies in a magazine this month and I knew right away I had to try them.

Yes, they definitely taste like hot chocolate in the form of a cookie! A sweet chocolate cookie is partially baked and then topped with a piece of milk chocolate topped off with a marshmallow. The result is a crunchy cookie topped with melted chocolate and a gooey marshmallow. DELICIOUS! In case you weren't already convinced of the deliciousness, the pictures will convince you. In fact, I may go get one out of my freezer right now :)

LESSON LEARNED: Be careful when you take a bite of these cookies, the marshmallow might come off in the first bite!

Recipe for Hot Chocolate Cookies

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lesson #54: Peppermint Twist Cupcakes

Happy December! I thought I would start off the month with these festive cupcakes to get in the holiday spirit.

The cupcakes have a white cake base which is swirled with a mint flavored batter. To mix up the flavors, I made a few different icings. One was a mint flavored meringue and a chocolate butter cream. These cupcakes are just minty enough without being too overwhelming.

LESSON LEARNED: These cupcakes look pretty and taste good too!

Recipe for Peppermint Twist Cupcakes

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lesson #53: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been searching for an AWESOME chocolate chip recipe! The recipe off the back of the chocolate chip bag is disappointing. Sometimes my cookies are flatten out while they are baking and they taste less than spectacular.

This is one of my first attempts at improving my chocolate chips cookies. I thought that weighing the ingredients (like professional pastry chefs) may improve the cookies. In any case, the scientific side of my personality loves accuracy when measuring ingredients. I also mixed up the chocolate chips. I used a super high quality chocolate (Valrhona - for any chocolate fans!) and included both chopped milk & dark chocolate. I also used a different technique to shaping the balls (check it out on the recipe). I'm not sure this made a huge difference, but these cookies were better than my typical chocolate chip cookies.
LESSON LEARNED: Who knew that perfecting chocolate chip cookies would be so tricky?

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lesson #52: Strawberries & Champagne Cheesecake

Strawberries & champagne in a cheesecake? Yes, please! I made this cheesecake for Thanksgiving at my grandma's on Saturday and it went over very well :)

First, you reduce champagne in a saucepan until it becomes sweet and syrupy. While the champagne is reducing, you make a chocolate graham cracker crust. Then, sliced strawberries are layered on top of the crust. The reduced champagne is incorporated into the cheesecake batter and placed over the sliced strawberries. Finally, the cooled cheesecake is topped with sliced strawberries and drizzled with melted chocolate. This cheesecake is a SHOWSTOPPER!

LESSON LEARNED: Don't underestimate the flavor of champagne in a cheesecake!

Recipe for Strawberries & Champagne Cheesecake

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lesson #51: Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake

I LOVE the holidays! I especially love cooking and baking for other people. It really gives me a good excuse to make desserts that can be shared among many people. For Thanksgiving day, I made a triple-chocolate mousse cake!

The bottom layer is a gooey flour-less chocolate cake. The middle layer is a dark chocolate mousse and the top layer is a white chocolate mousse. The dessert is rich & chocolate-y, but is super light from the layers of whipped cream and melted chocolate. Each layer has a different flavor and texture, which makes this a FABULOUS indulgence.

One important thing to note is serving temperature. I unmolded the dessert right out of the fridge and it was pretty firm. However, I left it out in a dessert table which we finished Thanksgiving dinner and by the time I ate dessert, it was pretty messy. Check out the pictures below :) In any case, this layered cake was EXCELLENT and can be made ahead of time.

LESSON LEARNED: This dessert is best served right out of the refrigerator!

Recipe for Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lesson #50: Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

I've never thought of making peanut butter cups before. The homemade version of this popular candy is surprisingly easy to make. Trust me, you will impress your friends if you whip up these easy chocolates! I definitely impressed myself and was pretty excited by the finished product.

I would suggest using the best quality chocolate you can. It does makes a difference since there are very few ingredients in the recipe. The peanut butter filling is AWESOME! The peanut butter is melted with a bit of butter, boiled for a few minutes with brown sugar, and sweetened with powdered sugar.

LESSON LEARNED: Making homemade candies is fun!

Recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lesson #49: Flaky Cream-Filled Cookies

I love collecting random cookie cutters.  As much as I love holiday cookie cutters, I really only use them once a year. So, I was SUPER excited to make Thanksgiving themed cookies. :)

The dough is a cream cheese baked pie crust which I cut out using small turkey cookie cutters. Inside the cookies are is a marshmallow fluff filling. The cookies bake up LIGHT & FLUFFY and the cream cheese adds just a touch of tangy flavor. Marshmallow fluff is whipped with butter and powdered sugar to create a sweet filling. Because I used a small cookie cutter, these took hardly any time to bake and were a perfect snack-sized cookie.

LESSON LEARNED: I only use turkey cookie cutters once a year!

Recipe for Flaky Cream-Filled Cookies

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lesson #48: Fudge Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache

Yes, these cupcakes contain dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and cocoa powder and are GUARANTEED to satisfy your chocolate craving! I made them last week and shared them with my evening class :)

Most of the time, I could take or leave uncooked cake batter. I usually test a little bit to make sure it tastes OK, but this uncooked batter is AMAZING. I wouldn't recommend eating the whole thing (that is, if you are worried about raw eggs), but a good spoonful probably isn't going to hurt you. It has a mousse-like quality- very light and fluffy. After these cupcakes bake and cool, they have a very fudge dark chocolate taste. I topped them off with some milk chocolate ganache and they were PERFECT!

LESSON LEARNED: Adding 3 types of chocolate to cupcakes = AMAZING results!

Recipe for Fudge Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lesson #47: Peanuty Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

This week I was hungry for a peanut butter oatmeal cookie that, well, tasted a little more interesting than a typical peanut butter oatmeal cookie. I saw a recipe in a food magazine that used toasted pecans in the cookie batter and I was sold!

The neat thing about this batter is that you combine the toasted pecans and peanut butter in a food processor to make a smooth paste. So, in essence, you taste the pecans, but there are no chunks of pecans. If you don't know that there are pecans in the cookies, it makes you wonder why they taste different (and a little better, in my opinion!) than typical peanut butter cookies. I was a little skeptical about how other people would like these cookies, so I took them to my 8am class this week. Only 10 students wanted cookies, but they finished 2 dozen cookies in 5 minutes! I would say these were a SUCCESS.

LESSON LEARNED: Pecans make a good addition to peanut butter oatmeal cookies!

Recipe for Peanuty Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lesson #46: Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon & Sugar Doughnuts

Last weekend, my mom bought me a doughnut pan (kinda like a cupcake pan, but it's in the shape of doughnuts). I'm a sucker for new baking gadgets, so I had to try it out right away. I didn't have any recipe bookmarked for doughnuts, so I decided to use the recipe off the back of the packaging for the pan. Plus, since these are baked doughnuts, not fried, I thought they are a touch healthier. It turns out that it's a pretty good recipe and a fun baking pan!

The doughnuts are light & fluffy - not at all like the super dense cake doughnuts you buy in the store. The key to the lightness is cake flour, which contains less gluten than regular all-purpose flour. Then, I added pumpkin spice to give these doughnuts a little extra "fall" flavor. They are also made with buttermilk which makes them a bit tangy.  Finally, I dipped the finished doughnuts in butter and rolled them in cinnamon/sugar. DELICIOUS! My afternoon class DEVOURED them in 5 minutes :)

LESSON LEARNED: Homemade doughnuts are amazing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lesson #45: PIneapple Upside Down Cake Ice Cream

Justin, my husband, LOVES ice cream. He is always encouraging me to come up with new and exciting flavors because he loves to sample the results. After a little brainstorming, I decided to turn a classic dessert like pineapple upside down cake into an ice cream. YUMMY, right?

The base of the ice cream is my recipe for cake batter ice cream. It uses a boxed cake mix in the custard which makes it taste exactly like store bought ice cream. While the custard was chilling in the refrigerator, I sauteed some chopped pineapple in butter and brown sugar until it was golden and sticky - similar to what you would find in the bottom of the cake. To make this ice cream even better, I mixed in chopped cherries with the pineapples! Enjoy!

LESSON LEARNED: Classic desserts can be turned into ice cream!

Recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake Ice Cream

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lesson #44: Chocolate Banana Muffins

How do you jazz up banana muffins? Add melted chocolate into the batter! Yes, this is as DELICIOUS as it sounds :) I think that both banana and chocolate can be aggressive flavors, but when they are paired together, the sweetness from the banana and the bitterness of the chocolate complement each other perfectly. I used a high quality dark chocolate (i.e. Valrhona 70% cocoa) in this recipe, but you could use a milk chocolate too.

I varied the baking times in this recipe to achieve the perfect amount of gooey-ness. I prefer slightly underbaked banana muffins (especially right out of the oven!) because I think it keeps the muffins from drying out for a few days. So, in this case, I baked the muffins for 18 minutes. If you want the muffins to be completely cooked, bake them for 20 minutes or until they puff up. Either way, you'll be glad you made these muffins!

LESSON LEARNED: Vary baking times to get your desired level of gooey-ness!

Recipe for Chocolate Banana Muffins

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lesson #43: Grape-Apple Pie

I took a quick survey of people I know and nobody heard of a grape-apple pie before. Almost everybody eats apple pie, but I got some confused looks when I suggested adding grapes to the apples. I saw a recipe in the current issue of Bon Appetit magazine, so I was sufficiently intrigued to try this recipe.

Let me start off by saying that this pie requires some love (that's my code word for hands on time!). There are quite a few steps, but I think they are completely worth it. You first have to make a double pie crust, chill it in the fridge, cook the filling, chill the filling, pre-bake the bottom pie crust, add the filling, and bake the pie. If you have a free afternoon and don't mind baking, this recipe would be perfect to try.

The pie is WONDERFUL! It's sweeter than a traditional apple pie and turns a fun purple/pink color. The extra step of pre-baking the bottom pie crust is worth the effort - the next day the pie wasn't soggy at all. I took the pie to my parent's house and a few people had a piece for breakfast the next day! :)

LESSON LEARNED: Pre-bake the bottom pie crust - it's worth the extra time!

Recipe for Grape-Apple Pie

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lesson #42: Caramel Corn

I was super excited to try this new caramel corn recipe! I've been testing all the new recipes I want to make for Thanksgiving and this caramel corn is likely to make an appearance as a pre-Thanksgiving feast snack :)

The only part of the recipe that I was a little concerned about was popping the actual popcorn. Silly, right? Well, in our household, Justin is the master popcorn popper. We cook our popcorn using oil in a large pot over the stove (no microwave popcorn in our house!). He has perfected his method over the years and his popcorn turns out perfectly. I, on the other hand, always burn the popcorn. I wanted to make this recipe while he was at work, so I had to pop my own popcorn. Surprisingly, it didn't turn out too burnt - I only had to throw away a few handfuls of popcorn!

After making the popcorn, the rest of the recipe was easy. You make a quick caramel sauce (no candy thermometer needed!) and bake the popcorn at a low heat in the oven. The result is an AMAZINGLY crunchy, sweet popcorn. It was so good that I had to give most of it away so I didn't eat it all!

LESSON LEARNED: Making popcorn on the stove takes some finesse and practice!

Recipe for Caramel Corn

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lesson #41: Sweet & Salty Truffles

Here's my second attempt at making truffles (here's a link to my last post on truffle making)! I thought I would go with a sweet and salty combination. It's FABULOUS and satisfied my sweet & salty craving!

I think my truffle making skills have slightly improved. For my birthday, my mom bought me some dipping tools that made the chocolate dipping process go a little easier. At least I didn't have big globs of chocolate on the outside coating :)

However, in the spirit of always improving, I noticed that the truffles were not too round. They looked kinda bumpy and misshapen (or optimistically, they look very homemade). Sometimes I don't have enough patience to roll the chocolate ganache into perfect round ball (plus it's gets really sticky and melts if you handle it too much!). I bought a candy mold which you pour chocolate into to create perfect rounds, so that's what I'm going to try next.

No matter how they look, these truffles are YUMMY! Semi-sweet chocolate is paired with crushed pretzels to create a sweet & salty ganache. The outside layer is semi-sweet chocolate, but would be equally as good with milk chocolate.The finished truffles are sprinkled with a touch of course sugar and salt which provide a bit of crunch.

LESSON LEARNED: My truffle making has improved, but I could still use more work to fine-tune my technique.

Recipe for Sweet & Salty Truffles

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lesson #40: Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats

We have an ongoing discussion in my house about how to improve Rice Krispies Treats. They are so DELICIOUS, and for a while, were one of my go-to desserts. This recipe is a hybrid of two ideas: Justin wanted me to stir in extra mini marshmallows and I wanted to use up our extra Halloween candy.

First, I followed the standard recipe by melting marshmallows and butter together in a pan. I mixed in the cereal and then added the extra mini marshmallows. I then melted some peanut butter, mixed in chopped peanut butter cups, and layered it on top of the cereal treats. For an extra layer of chocolate-y goodness, I melted milk chocolate kisses and layered this on top of the peanut butter. After they cooled, I cut them into squares to share with my afternoon class!

Seriously, these cereal treats ROCK! This picture makes me want to have another one right now :)

LESSON LEARNED: Leftover Halloween candy can be turned into a delicious dessert!

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lesson #38: Crunchy Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies

If you are in the mood for a crunchy cookie, this will satisfy your craving! I saw this recipe in Food & Wine Magazine this month and immediately put it on my list of recipes for the week.

The cookies are too overwhelmingly chocolate-y and are rolled in a cinnamon/sugar mixture before baking. As the cookies bake, they puff up and form cracks around the edges. They look picture PERFECT! Another GREAT thing about these cookies is that the dough is stiff enough that it doesn't need to be refrigerated before baking. You could mix up these cookies and eat them within half an hour!

LESSON LEARNED: These cookies are fast and easy to make!

Recipe for Crunchy Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lesson #37: Chocolate-Filled Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Last weekend while we were in Atlanta, my mother-in-law Laurie gave me this recipe. We both agreed it sounded good and different than typical cupcakes, so I was excited to try it!

There are two special things about these cupcakes: mashed sweet potatoes are incorporated into the batter, and part way through baking, a chocolate kiss is placed in the partially baked cupcake. The cupcakes are simple to put together and are DELICIOUS!

The cupcakes have a wonderful sweet and starchy flavor from the sweet potatoes. Pumpkin pie spice is also added to the batter which gives them a warm & spicy flavor. The chocolate frosting combines both milk and bittersweet chocolate - which perfectly compliments the chocolate kiss in the center of the cupcake. These are a PERFECT addition to your favorite fall desserts!

LESSON LEARNED: Placing a chocolate kiss partway through the baking time, prevents the chocolate from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake.

Recipe for Chocolate-Filled Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lesson #36: Pumpkin Roll Cake

Have you ever walked by the roll cakes in the grocery store and wondered if you could make one? I have, so I decided to try! This post documents my first attempt. The cake wasn't as pretty as it could be, but it tasted FANTASTIC! Taste trumps presentation (for me at least) any day. Here's what I learned so far:

1) Making the cake was easy. The cake is very light in texture (it contains no butter!) because of whipped eggs whites which are folded into the batter.

2) When you flip the cake after you bake it, place a kitchen towel on a sheet pan, lay the towel & pan on top of the cake, and then flip it. You sprinkle powdered sugar on the hot cake before you flip, so I tried to flip it without an extra pan and powdered sugar went everywhere!

3) Be patient! The cake has to cool completely before you try to unroll the cake (you first roll the cake while it's warm). If you don't wait until the cake is cool, it will crack. That's what happened to me :(

Even though the cake was messy looking, this was an AWESOME cake! The cake was light, fluffy, and delightfully pumpkin-y. The cream filling is slightly sweet, has a hint of rum flavor, and contains toffee pieces which provide a bit of crunch.

LESSON LEARNED: Rolled cakes are a little tricky!

Recipe for Pumpkin Roll Cake
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