potato gnocchi: a cautionary tale

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My intentions for this post were solid. One of the first recipes in the latest Bon Appetit is for Potato Gnocchi and it struck me as the perfect evening meal for multiple reasons. For one, it called for only three … Continue reading

tale of 3 bourbon brittles

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After a few weeks of dropping bourbon brittle teases, food for fun is ready for its show-and-tell. First, the bourbon brittle I found for a mere $2 at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. I tried to make it last, … Continue reading

DIY fun-size candy, a surprise guest, and a cocktail

A recent link on a friend’s facebook page combined two favorites: kitchen DIY and candy. Healthier versions of peanut butter cups, milk duds, peanut m&ms, crunch bars, butterfingers (personal fave), tootsie rolls, twix, etc could all be mine if I followed these recipes.

On closer inspection, I saw that some of these recipes didn’t truly resemble what they were supposed to mimic (though they’re probably still delish) and many called for ingredients that might take a bit of hunting down (puffed quinoa? Wasa 7-grain crackers?). My criteria of almost duplicating the original (chocolate-coated chickpeas passing for malted milk balls sounds intriguing, but not for Halloween) and having everything on hand (sadly, the crunch bars were out) narrowed it down to 3 Musketeers bars–my winner.

Though it wasn’t a win, really. My digital thermometer was on the fritz and the two meat thermometers I dug from the bottom of my drawer didn’t read high enough. The outcome was overcooked fluff and undercooked nougat (this makes more sense when you look at the recipe) and bars that just didn’t hold together. It being Halloween and all, I’ll show you the blobs that formed when I tried to coat the base in chocolate.

now THIS is scary

now THIS is scary

at least it won't ooze out of the pan

at least it won’t ooze out of the pan

I know, right? But if you’ve been here before, you know I still went forward. Spreading the fluff/nougat base in a well-greased pan, I then covered it with the melted chocolate.

Freezing it gave best results, though too much time at room temperature makes it overly soft. Flavorwise? Not bad! They come close to the real 3 Musketeers bar. So much so that too large of a piece (or too many small pieces) makes your teeth hurt.

Knowing that, I’ll cut myself a sliver and wait for my little goblins to get home from school and start the Halloween madness. *sits down in a comfy chair, puts her feet up, slowly brings DIY candy up for a bite*

DIY 3 Musketeers bars, sort of

DIY 3 Musketeers bars, sort of

*there’s a REALLY loud knock at the door* Liz !! Liz !!! Knock knock !!!

Liz: Who could that be? It’s a bit early for trick-or-treaters. And the girls won’t be home from school for another hour. But I recognize that voice. It sounds like amb*laughing* Ok, I’ll bite. Who’s there?

amb: Orange!!

Liz: Orange who?

amb: Orange you glad it’s Halloween ?!?!

*amb comes in* Trick or treat Liz !!! Oh my, this is exciting; I haven’t been to your house in ages. Everything looks great. And is that … do I smell … chocolate ?!? Oh my goodness, you spoil me. And all my readers. It’s cool that they’re here too, right? We took our shoes off at the door and everything.

Liz: Give me some time here, amb. I’m still recovering from your knock-knock joke. And you seem especially excited today. Chocolate on your chin–have you been eating candy bars already? *shakes head* But yes, of course, bring your lovely self and your lovely readers in. The more the merrier and I just happen to have this batch of super-sweet, super-indulgent homemade candy. Have some!

amb: We have food and movies! I brought entertainment. I figured it was the least I could do, since you’re providing the goodies. The perfect film to go with our completely over the top, so-bad-for-us-they’re-amazing snacks: the 1993 cult classic “Hocus Pocus”. Before he got Zac Efron to sing in “High School Musical”, Kenny Ortega convinced Bette Midler to wear some really, really bad make up in “Hocus Pocus”. Seriously. It’s so bad. I can’t look directly at Bette’s teeth; they’re terrifying.

eek!

eek!

I purposely picked this movie because I thought I could handle the scare-quotient, and now I’m feeling really nervous here on your couch. Hey, do you think Dave would come over if we called him? To protect me? And be all tall and strong and supportive and … wait, what movie are we watching, again?

Liz: Hocus. Pocus. Remember? That movie where Sarah Jessica Parker plays a witch who enchants boys by batting her eyelashes and … *amb is still all dreamy on the couch* er, never mind. Bad example. Ok. “Hocus Pocus” is that movie where a trio of witches are resurrected from the grave on All Hallow’s Eve and have one night to create the potion that will allow them to suck out children’s souls and stay young and beautiful forever … you ok amb? You’re looking a little pale.

amb: *shivering* Do you ever notice, Liz, how stories that are supposedly for children so often turn out to be completely gruesome? I mean, nobody took “Hocus Pocus” seriously when it came out–they were too distracted by the costumes and the cheesy dialogue and those teeth. But when you think about it, the slaughtering of innocent children just to maintain an outward appearance of youth and vitality is pretty serious stuff. I think it really speaks to the lack of respect that we seem to have, as a society, for our elders, and to the universal fear of becoming irrelevant.

Liz: Your geek glasses have come out, I see. But you’re right amb, when you look past the surface there are some heavy themes in this movie for sure. Maybe too heavy for a Halloween party, don’t you think? Can we focus on one of the lighter elements of the film? Potions? I’ve been toying with the idea of an adult version of a liquid candy bar, so combined a few of my favorite sweet spirits to arrive at this dandy of a cocktail.

sugar overload

sugar overload

amb: Yes, please. Let’s end with the cocktail. More sugar, that’s what I need! And Dave. More sugar, and Dave, and maybe a nice, romantic movie that doesn’t have dark overtones of grimness and death. Can we feature a musical next time, Liz?

Liz: Sounds like a great idea to me, amb. Maybe we should get together on a more regular basis for movie-and-snack discussions. You bring the movie, I’ll provide the snacks? We clearly have a winning combination watching Hocus Pocus while chewing our way through these gooey candy bars and sipping our Candy Bar Cocktails. You bring your Words Become Superfluous friends and I’ll invite food for fun folk and we’ll celebrate the silver screen and sensational snacks.

amb: Another yes from me! Let’s get on that–after this spooky-fun Halloween party, of course. When you get back to your kitchen, start looking for recipes while showtunes play in the background to get inspired. Hey, they’re dimming the lights for the movie. Happy Halloween everybody! And thanks for letting us crash, Liz.

Liz: Always happy to have you and your amazing readers over. Come back anytime! To close, will offer the recipe for the wicked candy cocktail we’re serving. A very sugary cheers to all!

Happy Halloween from amb and Liz :-D

Happy Halloween from amb and Liz 😀

Candy Bar Cocktail

  • 1 ounce Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 ounce dark crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce half-and-half
  • 1/2 ounce white crème de cacao
  • 1/2 ounce Tuaca or vanilla vodka
  • 1/2 ounce brandy
  • Chocolate sprinkles

In shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except for sprinkles. Shake well. Use small amount of cocktail to wet rim of glass; press glass into sprinkles on plate. Strain cocktail into glass.

best laid plans or a ding-dong trifle and d@mn chocolate ice cream

With my oldest daughter’s birthday on its way, I got in gear to bake an amazing cake. (There was that pony cake to match, if not top.) And because she loves chocolate, I also wanted to make her a batch of brilliant chocolate ice cream. But…

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

After enjoying a Swiss-roll type of cake at a local diner, we knew we’d found  the perfect treat for her big day.

A quick internet search for “homemade chocolate ding-dong” (Can hardly type this with a straight face, but that’s the snack cake I thought I was going for. My Hostess-savvy husband has since pointed out that ding-dongs are not cake rolls. Just the same, the name stuck.) brought me to Smitten Kitchen’s Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll. I could do this.

Turns out I couldn’t. The fact that there was no flour in the cake should have concerned me, but I figured SK knew what she was doing (and I’m sure she did–her cake roll turned out quite nicely) so jumped in.

My mistake was taking the cake out of the oven too soon; it was overly moist and stuck to the dish towel. But, I was trying to follow SK’s advice to not overbake lest it become too dry for rolling. Not ready to admit defeat (I had six eggs and six ounces good chocolate already invested), I set it aside to deal with later.

so not was I was going for

so not was I was going for

Next up was the ice cream, so I turned to trusty Humphry Slocombe for their Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate recipe. Intriguing! Though I was making this for an 11-year-old, I loved the name and had been eying the recipe since buying the book. (HS claims they had no intention of making flavors as mundane and ordinary as chocolate, but when their customers wouldn’t let up about it, they developed this rich, velvety chocolate ice cream and gave it an in-your-face name. You can read Attempts in Domesticity’s post for more on their Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream.)

This ice cream was a tough gig. First step was melting sugar into caramel, then adding water (though I subbed in coffee), cream, and milk before tempering with egg yolks and adding shots of cocoa powder and a final blast of dark chocolate. Lots of muscle was involved when my caramel hardened and I had to cook and stir, cook and stir to melt it down again. But I don’t go down easily in the kitchen and was proud to emerge victorious. The resulting custard was dreamy and dark, and I chilled it overnight.

churning the dark chocolate custard

churning the dark chocolate custard

Humphry S had described this ice cream as being pudding-like, so I wasn’t surprised at the thick custard that greeted me the next morning. But I was surprised when it didn’t freeze while churning. After a half-hour or so, I took matters into my own hands and set the canister in an ice-water bath and beat it with a hand mixer. The dark brown chocolate gradually lightened as it filled with air and when it was light enough to overflow the canister, I transferred it to another container for freezing.

look at how much lighter it is!

a lot lighter

Back to that cake: Rolling didn’t seem an option, so I did what any self-respecting failed cake baker would do: I made a trifle. Into a lovely glass bowl went layers of crumbled moist (flourless) chocolate cake, sweetened whipped cream, sprinkles of cacao nibs, and a killer chocolate ganache. Birthday cake? Not really. But we stuck a candle in it and called it good.

pre-candle

pre-candle

The birthday trifle certainly didn’t need a rich ice cream to accompany, but I’d gone to the trouble of making that d@mn stuff, so serve it up we did. More frozen chocolate mousse than ice cream, it was light, ethereal, and almost otherworldly. If I made it again, I’d serve it solo and let folks enjoy it for the rich and creamy and deeply flavored chocolate treat that it is.

Did my daughter enjoy her birthday desserts? Sure. Though it seemed over the top, especially on a weekday evening when dinner was slotted between an afternoon playdate and evening tennis lessons. This may have been an instance when a simple cake and store-bought ice cream would have been sufficient.

over the top birthday treats!

over the top birthday treats!

But homemade trifle and creamy-rich chocolate ice cream should be celebrated and I don’t regret the time and effort that went into making either. It was a bit more of a battle than I’m used to, but a kitchen challenge is a call to action and backing down was never an option. Happy Birthday, my dear Clare. May you dodge the bullet of inheriting your mother’s crazy-obsessed food DNA.

failed pink squirrel pie

I’ve posted before that I love a pink squirrel. This sweet cocktail is a blend of equal parts cream (or ice cream, if so inclined), white crème de cacao, and crème de Noyaux (also known as crème de noya or crème de almond). Made of apricot kernels, crème de Noyaux takes its name from “noyau,” the French word for kernel, pit, or core. Its red hue puts the pink in a pink squirrel and lends a more interesting flavor than if similarly flavored amaretto were used in its place.

Pink squirrels rank high on my list. So does Marshmallow Fluff. (Click over to deLizious Facebook for proof of the fluff obsession.) With two dozen jars of fluff in my pantry (I can only find it on store shelves once a year, folks. Please don’t judge me. 😉 ), I’ve taken The Marshmallow Fluff Cookbook down from the shelf. A recipe for Grasshopper Pie caught my eye and I thought why not crème de Noyaux instead of de menthe? A traditionally mint green pie went pink as I subbed in one liqueur for another.

I’d like to say it was an amazing success. Except that it wasn’t. My tendency to play fast and loose with recipes got me into trouble. Instead of using gelatin, I used vegetarian gelatin left over from a past project (vegetarian marshmallows anyone?). I also let the gelatin mixture come to a boil, which is for sure a no-no. In the end, the chilled gelatin mixture was a bit gloppy–certainly not the light and airy mousse I was going for. Once folded into the freshly whipped cream, it made a passable pie filling, though it never fully set, so slices didn’t hold their shape once plated.

pink squirrel pie

pretty and delish, but so not what I was going for

I’ll call it pudding in a pie shell and still enjoy, but will try again another day using regular gelatin and paying more attention when heating the gelatin mixture. It’s a reminder to me that experimenting with recipes doesn’t always lead to success. Even the mistakes are delicious, though, which is why I’m ok making mistakes in the kitchen. And for the sake of deliciousness, I hope you are, too.

Pink Squirrel Pie

Play with flavor by switching out the crème de Noyaux for another liqueur.

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (vegetarian gelatin not recommended)
  • 1 (7.5-ounce) jar marshmallow fluff
  • 1/2 cup crème de Noyaux
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 (9-inch) graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • Sliced almonds

In medium saucepan, stir together cold water and gelatin; let stand 1 minutes. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly,  just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallow fluff and crème de Noyaux. Refrigerate until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon.

In large bowl, whip 1 1/2 cups cream until soft peaks form. Fold into thickened gelatin mixture. Pour filling into crust. Top with 1 cup whipped cream; sprinkle with almonds. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set.