Champagne Gummy Hearts

I have fallen in love with a great candy store named Sugarfina.  I visited one of their boutiques when visiting Chicago recently, and love the branding of this upscale candy. They offer a variety of lovely gummy bears in their stores.

So for my own wedding anniversary,  I decided to try my hand at making champagne gummy hearts, roses and leaves.  They were relatively easy to make.  And, I was quickly able to find a great recipe online. In fact, there are many websites and blogs with recipes out there for various type of champagne or other flavored gummy bears.

Here is how I made my selection of champagne gummy hearts.  First of all, I used my chocolate candy molds and purchased unflavored gelatin.  The other ingredients I happened to have in my pantry.  Many other types of molds are available, but I happened to have hearts, leaves and roses which seemed very appropriate for our anniversary.

Here is what you need:  1 cup champagne, 5 packets of unflavored gelatin which equal about 5 tablespoons, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon strawberry extract, a dot of Wilton pink food coloring, and the candy molds.

In a saucepan, add the champagne and mix in the gelatin.  Allow it to firm up, which will take only a few minutes.  Once the gelatin has set, place on the stove top and gently stir until heated, but not boiling.  Do not cook off the alcohol content by allowing this mixture to boil.

Whisk the contents and then add the sugar and continue to heat on medium-low until all of the sugar is dissolved into the gelatin mixture.  This will take a few minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add in the strawberry extract and the food coloring.

Use your favorite small cup or a food syringe and fill the candy molds.  Place on trays in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to one hour until set.  Remove the hearts from the molds onto waxed paper, and then store in a sealed container until ready to use.

The champagne taste is very evident, and these candies are so festive for an anniversary party.  The candy treats are also fun for holidays, birthdays, afternoon tea or even for a small sweet dessert.  Serve a couple of them in a champagne glass to your adult guests. They will be surprised that you made them for a fraction of the cost of those in the boutiques.

Birthday cake icing

For years I have owned a checkerboard cake pan and finally decided to attempt to make this layer cake.  First and foremost, I want to emphasize–this takes time.  I planned two days to prepare the cake, chill the cake, and make and decorate the cake.

And by no means, am I any sort of expert.  I call myself a cooking and baking enthusiast.  But, over the years, I have developed confidence in trying many new recipes and experimenting with my own recipes and modifications.

This icing recipe is not an experiment.  It came directly from the pages of Martha’s American Food cookbook.  It was made exactly as she recommended.  And, it is an amazing recipe.  Although she does not say to chill the cake after icing, I highly recommend that step.

The icing is perfect consistency for spreading on a layer cake, but needs to firm up for serving.  I also feel that by chilling the cake prior to icing, allows the cake to firm up as well.  There is nothing worse than a layer cake that is sagging, tilting, or falling over.

If ever thinking of making a layer cake, consider this recipe, it is delicious. This recipe made 7 1/2 cups of icing.  I had about 1/2 cup left over after frosting three layers.  Certainly, the quantity could be changed based on your cake size.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 1 cup boiling water, 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter SOFTENED, 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, pinch of salt

Heat and melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Combine the cocoa with the boiling water in a bowl. Dissolve.  Beat softened room temperature butter in a stand mixer, with the sugar and salt until fluffy.  Add melted chocolate slowly and then add in the cocoa mixture.

Use immediately.  The icing will be soft and free-flowing and covers the cake very well.  To firm up the icing, chill in the refrigerator.

And about the cake itself, the pan is the key to the checkerboard cake.  You can use any two types of cake mixes, or any of your favorite cake recipes.  The pan does the work.  I baked the cakes for 25 minutes, chilled, and leveled the tops prior to assembling the layer cake.  These pans provide an easy release and there were no worries with the results. I used a Chicago Metallic checkerboard cake pan, but many others are also available online, including one from Wilton.

I always have a nice feeling when I bake a cake for the one I love.

 

Ginger Walnut Bundt cake

After seeing so many beautiful cake pans displayed from Nordicware, I just had to prepare an old-fashioned bundt cake at home.  This cake was super delicious, with the recipe coming from the pages of Taste of Home, November 2015.  Even though I often adjust other cookbook recipes, for baking, I always follow the recipe exactly and this was one no exception.

The crystallized ginger gives this cake an outstanding flavor panel.  I certainly recommend it for any time of year.  Gather these ingredients and get ready to experience a yummy cake for your friends and family — 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup hot coffee, 1 cup canola oil, 1 cup molasses, 1/4 cup light sour cream, 2 eggs, 3 1/4 cups flour, 5 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger and for the glaze, you will need:  2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, 4 Tablespoons lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a Nordicware 9 1/2 to 10 inch tube pan. I own several sizes of bundt and other Nordicware pans, and love to use them in my baking.  In your Kitchen Aid stand mixer, beat brown sugar, coffee, oil, molasses and sour cream.  Add the eggs and blend in.  In another bowl, mix flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add to the stand mixer and blend in.  Stir in walnuts and crystallized ginger.

Transfer to the bundt pan. Bake 50-60 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes before removing to a cake plate.  Allow to cool completely before adding the glaze.

Usually a glaze would be sweet, but the lemon juice in this glaze makes it a bit sour.  It really is quite delicious on the cake.  If you prefer, you could just use milk or water instead of the lemon juice.  I actually prefer the lemon glaze with this cake.  To make the glaze — mix the sugar, lemon peel and the juice to reach a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle and sprinkle over additional crystallized ginger.  I only used a portion of the glaze on the cake.

For 2017, Nordicware has introduced so many new colors in their line of baking pans. Along with their Fall harvest pans, and silver holiday collection, they have introduced new premier gold and copper pans.  They are stunning and include so many cute cakelet pans for Spring and Summer.  If you have not seen them, be sure to check out their online store, or their baking pans can be found at various shops including Target, Wal-Mart or Williams Sonoma.

Here are some of the photos I took while at their booth in Chicago.

 

 

Chocolate topped ice cream treats

For those of you who love an ice cream treat, but just can’t have a whole bowl, here is a great way to portion out a delicious dessert.  I scoop out Edy’s Vanilla ice cream into eight large cookie balls with my cookie scoop.  Freeze them on a tray and then make a quick ganache topping.  This time I melted 6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate with 4 ounces unsalted butter (or 6 ounces to be able to dip the ice cream balls) and 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup in a double boiler on the stove top.  When the ganache is melted and ready, working quickly, pour over the ice cream balls or dip the ice cream into the ganache.

The treats could be topped with sea salt, sprinkles, or chopped nuts.  Return to the freezer immediately until just ready to serve.  They must chill at least 30 minutes to set for presentation.

Oven Baked Stone Fruit

We have had a Winter warm-up of temperatures in Michigan, which makes me feel like Spring might be on the way. Stone fruit is in the market, with peaches, plums and apricots being my favorites. I decided to bake some peaches and top with some vanilla sugar a few days ago, and they were delicious.

Baked stone fruit is delicious as a warm dessert with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I sprinkled the sugar, and then added a shave of margarine to the tops of the sliced open fruit.

     

The fruit baked in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. So simple but so tasty. Other options would include adding ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg to taste.

Bavarian Apple Torte

Just like others, I have recipes that I have made for my family for years. This one, in particular, I have made dozens of times over the past 30 years.  It is a classic.  I obtained the recipe from a friend of mine from the very first garden club I had ever joined, back in 1979.  To say that the recipe is delicious is an understatement.  It has always been well received from anyone I have ever served.  Two keys to success to this recipe are: using a 9 inch non-stick springform pan, along with slicing the apples quite thin.

Here is how I made this recipe–gather these ingredients for the different steps:  1/2 cup softened butter, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 8 ounces light cream cheese/softened, 1 egg, 4 cups very thinly sliced apples, 1/4 cup sliced almonds, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/3 cup sugar.

Preheat the oven to very hot–450 degrees.  In a stand mixer, cream butter, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  Stir in flour until a soft dough is formed.  Press this dough in the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan–about 1 inch high on the sides of the pan.

Next, beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer.  Add egg and vanilla and pour onto the crust in the pan.

Then, combine the apples, cinnamon and remaining sugar in a large bowl.  Layer over the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the almonds on the top.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, LOWER the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake another 20-25 minutes until done.  Cool before removing from the pan.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Makes 6-8 servings. Other options for serving include–add whipped cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or even a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Mocha Chip Meringues

One of my favorite cookies happens to be a meringue.  We loved the taste of these cookies over the Christmas holiday this year.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe and as every one of her recipes, it worked perfectly. These cookies were crispy, but soft inside the center of the cookie.  The chocolate taste was just perfect and not overpowering.  I opted to use mini chocolate chips in the recipe, instead of the full size chips.  I found the substitute to be perfect and a nice improvement to her recommendations.

How to make the mocha chip meringues–gather these ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3 egg whites at room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with two racks divided within the oven.  Add parchment paper or silpat mats to the cookie sheets.  In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until frothy on medium speed.  Then add sugar mixture slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat about 6-8 minutes until very stiff. I used my stand mixer with the whipping whisk.  Add espresso powder and cocoa next.  Fold in chocolate chips at the end with a spatula.

Drop onto cookie sheets, one tablespoon at a time.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before removing from cookies sheets.  Great recipe and these cookies are light and delicious.