Friday, January 7, 2011

Surprise Cake Balls!

This was a surprise result of my holiday baking frenzy. I set out to make cupcakes, and they failed into something way more awesome.

I was making cupcakes in some silicone molds, and they just didn't want to release from those molds, so I had to gouge them out in pieces. I threw the chunks into a big bowl, added half a jar of frosting, half a jar of caramel sauce, and the very end of a jar of marshmallow fluff, and mixed it all together with my hands. Then I rolled the cake into balls, refrigerated them for an hour, and melted some chocolate. I dipped the balls into the chocolate, dropped them on a lined cookie sheet, and covered them in sprinkles. They actually turned out pretty delicious, if a little irregularly shaped.

Try it some time! (If you need more direction doing this, just do a Google search for "cake balls." There's all kinds of instructions out there!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Toffee

Back in November, I decided I wanted to take on an overly ambitious self-imposed baking project for the holidays, and bake for two weeks in a row. I didn't make it. I think I ended up making about 5 things, one of which failed in a big bad way (photos forthcoming). This is one of the ones that did work out, and it was amazing. And so easy!

To make toffee, you will need:
One pound butter (4 sticks)
One pound sugar
Three ounces water
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon vanilla extract
Twelve-ounces (one package) really good quality milk chocolate chips (i.e. NOT Nestle)

You will also need a candy thermometer (available at most grocery stores for as little as $5) and really good parchment paper OR a silpat OR waxed paper (last resort)

Combine the butter, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Cook over medium heat, stirring gently, until the thermometer hits 298 degrees. This was my first time making candy, but since then, I've looked at several candy recipes, and they all call for weird temperatures. Why 298F, why not 300F? It's a mystery, I tell you.

Anyway, once the toffee hits the magical 298 degrees, remove it from heat and stir in the vanilla. Be careful! It might jump up and get you. Pour it onto a cookie sheet that's been lined with parchment or a silpat or wax paper. (I used wax paper. It stuck a little when I was removing it, but everything came out alright. A silpat is definitely the way to go, if you have one. If not, they're pretty cheap--I picked one up at Macy's for about $20 a few days before Christmas.)

Let your toffee cool and harden. That may take as little as 30 minutes, or as long as a few hours. I let mine sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then put it in the fridge for an hour-ish. Wipe off any condensation/grease that forms on top of the toffee.

While your toffee is hardening, melt the chocolate. When you're ready to spread it, it should feel cool when you dab a bit on the inside of your wrist, so make sure to test it, and don't burn yourself!

Use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate over the toffee, and sprinkle with toppings (chopped nuts, sea salt, etc) if you like. I used crushed candy canes. Festive! Let the chocolate set, and then break into pieces, and give to all your friends. The toffee tastes best at room temperature, but is much easier to eat (and doesn't get stuck in the teeth as much) if it's refrigerated. Enjoy!

Takes two to four hours, start to finish.
Makes one cookie sheet of toffee.
Difficulty: 2