15 December 2014

In the kitchen

When I was in grad school, I started making baskets....not like underwater weaving or anything, but gift baskets. I know, right? (All of a sudden, you see me wielding a thimble, an apron with Modge Podge and random ribbons stuck to it.) It became a thing for me when I came upon some reed baskets at an antique market while working out in western Massachusetts, and made mini-loaves of cinnamon swirl bread, bought some hand-dipped candles, combined it with vintage linen napkins and modern napkin rings and a glass-blown ornament and, boom, a custom-made gift.

Since then, I've done variations on the theme, with mini-tarts (apricot/almond, chocolate/cranberry, and pear/hazelnut), Finnish breakfast buns, chutneys (apple cranberry, persimmon and plum), homemade almond toffee and candied fruit peels. When the Pumpkin Noodle started school, we made cookies for her classmates and teachers; last year she and the Bubbaloo cut out the shapes and decorated with the icing they made. (For the record, two classrooms with 40 kids + teachers with three cookies apiece = a s#!t ton of prep and baking and required some help from Santa's elves after hours to complete the task.)

This year, I decided to go easier on myself and so, invited two of the Noodle's friends over, had the time set so adult beverages were appropriate and we made fudge. Three kinds of fudge: Chocolate Peppermint, Mexican Hot Cocoa and Gingerbread. Super easy to make and insanely tasty. I have included the recipes here and added the links to the originals (I tweaked the recipes a bit). Below are the finished products....did I mention how freakin' tasty these are???

 Peppermint Chocolate, Mexican Hot Cocoa & Gingerbread Fudge
Peppermint Chocolate Fudge

12 oz (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz (1 bag) white chocolate chips
3 (14-oz) cans condensed milk
4 TB butter
pinch of salt
½ -1 tsp peppermint extract
½ -1 cup crushed candy canes
  1. Spray an 8x8 inch square dish with non-stick spray. 
  2. Place semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 can condensed milk, 2 TB butter, and salt into a heavy pan over medium-low heat and stir continuously until melted and well combined.
  3. Pour mixture into the dish, smoothing the top with an offset spatula or butter knife.  Let cool (I just let it sit on counter).
  4. Place white chocolate chips, 1 can condensed milk, 2 TB butter, peppermint extract and salt into a heavy pan over medium-low heat and stir continuously until melted and well combined.  
  5. Gently pour remaining fudge mixture on top of peppermint. Spread gently, so that there is a distinct layer of white on top.
  6. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.
  7. Let fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. Cut into small pieces and store, tightly covered, in the fridge.

Mexican Hot Cocoa Fudge

3 cups milk chocolate chips
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 TBSP cocoa powder
2 TBSP butter
4 tsps vanilla extract
1-2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 -1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup marshmallow bits (the smaller, the better)

  1. Line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. 
  2. Over medium low heat, add the sweetened condensed milk to a small saucepan. Whisk in the cocoa powder. the cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips and stir consistently until well-combined. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour into the pan, and add the marshmallow bits, pressing them into the fudge. (You may not need all of them.)
  5. Refrigerate for at least four hours, covered, before removing the fudge from the pan by lifting the aluminum foil, peeling it off the fudge, and cutting the fudge to serve.
  6. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Gingerbread Fudge

3 1/4 cups white chocolate chips
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles, if desired (I used red/green/white)

  1. Spray an 8x8 inch square dish with non-stick spray. 
  2. Place white chocolate chips, brown sugar, molasses, evaporated milk, and all spices in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine, then place over medium-low heat. Stir almost continuously until melted and smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Top with sprinkles, if desired.
  3. Chill fudge to set. Cut and store, tightly covered in the fridge. 
  4. (Note: this fudge is a little softer than normal fudge, so it should be kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve.)

(Super easy to gift, you can use the tall cellophane bags with gift tag stickers or the candy boxes - both are sold at Michael's or any hobby store). 

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