Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Truffles

Buckeyes, peanut butter balls, or peanut butter truffles.   Call them anything you like, but I'll call them DELICIOUS!!!

I've had this recipe for years, and am not even sure where I first got it.    It's hand written on an old sheet of notebook paper in my ancient recipe box.   I make these treats just about every year at Christmas, and when I share them with friends, I always get rave reviews!!

The last few years I've made jumbo Peanut Butter Truffles On A Stick!   You know, anything on a stick is way more fun to eat, right?  

I wrapped these little cuties up in mini cellophane bags and tied them with Christmas ribbon.  I shared with my Ladies' Bible Study friends, and will bring them to our awesome Sunday School teachers this Sunday.  They're the perfect three-bite treat to let your friends know how much you love them!!

Peanut Butter Truffles

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar
3-4 cups milk chocolate chips or semi sweet chocolate chips for dipping
1 tablespoon Crisco

In a medium bowl, beat together butter and peanut butter.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until mixture is smooth.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Use a small scoop or a spoon and form small balls of mixture.  With your palms, roll into smooth balls.  Place on wax paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Pour chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl, along with 1 tablespoon Crisco.  Heat on high for 1 minute.  Stir until chocolate chips are melted.  If necessary, microwave again in 15 second intervals, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are all melted and smooth.

Drop a peanut butter ball into melted chocolate.  With a fork, retrieve from the chocolate and tap-tap-tap the fork on the edge of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off.  Use another fork to slide the peanut butter ball back onto the wax paper.  Repeat!  (If desired, sprinkle with holiday sprinkles before the chocolate firms up.)

Put cookie sheet back in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up the chocolate.  Store in the fridge.  Try not to eat more than a few at a time or you'll get a tummy ache.  ;)

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

I admit it.  I watch Food Network t.v. all the time.  I mean, all four of my kids are in school now.  It's *quiet* in my house during the day!  While I'm busy with chores and such, I'll often click on the t.v. and watch cooking shows in the afternoon.  I'm a fan of Giada DeLaurentiis and her homey Italian recipes.  I've made quite a few!

Recently, on one of Giada's holiday specials, she made Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti.  I love making biscotti, and I thought this would make a perfect gift for my kids' teachers for Christmas (along with a Starbucks gift card!).

Pistachios and dried cranberries give the dough a festive red and green-speckled appearance which is perfect for Christmas!!

The biscotti recipe is straight-forward and easy to mix together.   It's formed into a log about 13 inches long and 3 inches wide.

It's baked the first time for 30 minutes until lightly golden.

After the loaf has cooled for a little while, it is sliced into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch slices, which are then baked again.

The result?   Crunchy sweet biscotti, perfect for dipping into your favorite cup of coffee!!

Here's the recipe from Giada!   I omitted a portion of her recipe (dunking the biscotti into melted white chocolate and sprinkling with colored sugar), and used orange zest instead of lemon zest.  

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, orange zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.

Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife or electric knife cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Candy Cane Kisses

Don't you just love holiday cookies?  When else, besides the holidays, do we get to eat tons of cookies and treats with liberty?!

Hershey, throughout the last few years, has come out with a huge variety of Kisses.  One of their newest, which I discovered last winter, is the Candy Cane flavor!  Mmmmm!!

These Candy Cane Kiss cookies are so delightful!

Sugar cookie dough studded  with chunks of chopped up Candy Cane Kisses, rolled in sugar, baked, then topped with a Candy Cane Kiss.  Scrumptious!

Here is the recipe!  Enjoy!

Candy Cane Kisses

48 Candy Cane Kisses, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
Granulated sugar

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove wrappers from candies.   Measure out ½ cup of kisses and chop.  Set aside.

 Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar, and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

 Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookie is set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press a candy piece into center of each cookie.  If possible, place cookie sheet directly into your fridge to cool cookies quickly.   Cool completely.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD: Finnish Pulla Bread

I was really looking forward to making this beautiful braided bread!   It's Scandinavian heritage reminds me of my own Norwegian family, and the recipe is familiar.

Cardamom, almonds, and pearl sugar all remind me of the other Norwegian breads I've made.  My mom's recipe for crepe-like pancakes, as well as her recipe for Skillingsbolle, are both spiced with cardamom.  The scent and flavor instantly remind me of her!

The dough for this beautiful bread is remarkably easy to made and handle.  Milk is scalded and cooled slightly, then added to a butter-and-egg-rich batter of all purpose flour, yeast, a little sugar, and cardamom.   Additional flour is added to made a beautiful dough.   (The recipe calls for cardamom pods, when you remove and crush the seeds.  I had ground cardamom on hand, so I used that instead.)

The dough was slow to rise the first time in my cool kitchen.  However, it was a dream to handle, forming a long braid and twisted into a wreath.

After the second rise, I still had hope for a successful yeast bread!

The braid is brush with an egg wash, then sprinkled with sliced almonds and pearl sugar.

After baking, the bread has risen even more, resulting in a gorgeous golden bread!  It's BIG, about 18 inches in diameter.  Perfect for a crowd on Christmas morning!

Sliced, the bread is lightly sweet, soft on the inside, and slightly crunchy on the outside from the sugar and nuts.   Perfect with a smear of butter and a cup of coffee.

Today's Tuesdays With Dorie host is Erin of The Daily Morsel.  Please visit her blog for the complete recipe, and also for some beautiful photos that will guide you step-by-step in making this Finnish Pulla.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TWD: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Wow, these little Gingerbread Baby Cake sure pack a spicy punch!  Not in a "my mouth is burning" like hot Mexican food way, but in a warm gingery baked-goods sorta way.

The cakes earn the spicy award from the fresh ginger, powdered ginger, black pepper and molasses.  LOTS of molasses.  And yes, black pepper!!   I can say this is the first time I've used black pepper in a cake!

The recipe says to use eight 4 inch round cake pans.  Instead, I used a gingerbread man mini cake pan, plus a mini loaf pan that I already had.   Gingerbread men made with gingerbread?   Makes perfect sense to me!!

The batter is simple to put together.  No fancy steps involved.   The batter, which is dark brown from the molasses, dark brown sugar, espresso powder, and cocoa powder, is smooth and easy to divide amongst the pans.

The cakes popped out easily from the pans, except for this lil guy.   He was the first to go.

The cakes look so chocolaty.  However, they do NOT taste chocolaty in the very least!    I could not detect even the least bit of flavor of cocoa.  Alas, I decided that these little cakes would be perfect with a dollop of lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream with a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top.   ( I would have done just that if I'd had any cream!)

Alas, I chose powdered sugar to give these little cuties a little added sweetness.   They are moist and beautiful in texture.

The verdict?  These Gingerbread Baby Cakes are more suited to grown up tastes.  One of my children, the 11 year old, deemed them "okay, but not sweet enough", while the other three didn't like them at all.   I liked them well enough, but they are a tad too spicy for me without any additional sweetness added on top.

Karen from Karen's Kitchen Stories is our Tuesdays with Dorie host for today!  If you'd like to try this recipe this Christmas, please visit her blog.

Or, purchase the cookbook for yourself as a Christmas gift!   It's called Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan, and it's filled with wonderful recipes from multiple contributors from around the globe.   Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tea Party Petit Fours and Cake

I made 50 of these sweet petit fours for Ava's 4th Birthday Tea Party this weekend!   Ava and her little friends celebrated in style----pedicure, dress up, crafts, and of course, tea and treats!

Here is Ava's birthday cake!