I'm so happy to have you here with me sharing the delicious journey I have chosen! I am Carrie, a mom on a mission to find bliss in the kitchen. At least, as long as my kids allow me to. More of a baker than a cook, you'll find I love experimenting--baking is sort of like a mad scientist experiment, anyway, isn't it? It doesn't always turn out the way I plan, but that's part of the fun. ;)
Have you ever stopped to think about what your kids are being served for food at school? Until Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa, I have to admit that I never put much thought into it. I looked at the menu, was dissatisfied with the options, and invested in a good lunch bag and containers instead, planning on …
Christmas is creeping ever so closer. Before you know it, it’ll be here and you’ll be declaring, “Where did the time go?” It’s tricky like that. First you’re complaining about decorations being up in the stores in August, then it’s here and you’re not at all prepared.
I’m not cut out to be a morning person. I like my late nights, working in the silence of early morning while everyone else slumbers. “Seinfeld” repeats on the TV in the background, snuggled up in my bed, I get a lot more done than I can during the day with the crazy kids …
Sorry to disappoint, but this is not a food story. Fair warning!
Saturday, I spent the afternoon photographing the mogul skiing competition at my home hill, Ski Sundown in New Hartford, CT. For a small hill, they’ve come a long way in the last few years and are now the leader in mogul skiing in …
The days are getting shorter, the darkness much longer, and the nip in the air is hard to ignore. Winter is nearly here. And while my family lives for the winter–my husband and kids have a passion for skiing that eclipses everything else this time of year–I’m not quite ready to give over fully to it yet. I’m grasping at straws here, holding on to anything that reminds me of the sunshine I am sorely missing.
Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies embody the spirit of a season long past, a whisper of hope for what’s to come… We can make it. We can get through this. And our patience will be rewarded; our bodies will be kissed by the sun again. Someday.
It was my intention to turn these into a sort of margarita-in-a-cookie, but the tequila and orange liqueur flavors didn’t come through as strongly as I had hoped. Regardless, the flavors meld well with the rest, creating a cookie with a crispy exterior, chewy interior, combining into something really quite addictive. I’d say they’d last 3-4 days at room temperature, but I’m not sure they’d last that long anyway. You won’t be able to put them down. Maybe you should freeze some to ration throughout the winter. Breadcrumbs leading to warmer days ahead.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Spread the coconut in an even layer on a baking sheet and toast it as the oven preheats, tossing frequently and watching carefully to ensure it does not burn (it can happen quickly!). Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes).
Beat in the egg until fully incorporated.
Add the orange liqueur, tequila, lime zest, and lime juice and mix until incorporated.
Gradually mix in the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Remove from stand mixer.
Portion out dough with a #60 cookie scoop, rolling balls in sugar before placing on the cookie sheet. Give them plenty of room, as they will spread a bit.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until just starting to lightly brown.
Leave on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
With Christmas only a few weeks away, we decided to try our hands at making candy canes this month for First on the First–a terrifying challenge, at least to me. Any time you’re handling burning hot lava and trying to fashion it into something edible, I get nervous. And let’s not forget, I wasn’t exactly lucky the last time we tried candy-making.
Searching the internet, you’ll find a lot of articles on how big companies make their candy canes, but not many from the home cook’s perspective. It could be that this is an exercise in insanity–the yield isn’t particularly high compared to the perceived work involved. Or it could just be that, with candy canes being so inexpensive, few people feel it’s worth attempting them. It’s not like you’re saving a whole lot of money here–in fact, you’re probably spending more by making them yourself. Regardless, there’s a certain satisfaction from presenting a project from your own kitchen that can’t be beat. So we marched on, timid but hopeful.
It’s important to note that this is not really a project to be shared with younger children. Candy-making, in general, involves precise (scalding hot) temperatures and quick movements. Let the kids help you with the sugar cookies and leave the candy canes to the adults. The kids will be more than happy to assist in eating them once they’re completed.
I’m not a fan of corn syrup, given the likelihood that it is genetically modified and I’m still not sure how I feel about ingesting such things. But many candies are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make with substitutes. They’ll crystallize, the texture will be all wrong, and you’ll just end up angry and frustrated. This is a once a year thing; I can accept it. (You’d be eating it in commercial candy canes, anyway.)
Hand protection is important. Because you have to act when the candy is pliable, it will be quite hot. Get some of those $1 bin tight-fitting gloves, cover them with non-latex food-safe gloves, and oil up. You’ll have to suck it up to play this game; as candy cools, it turns brittle and you won’t be able to work it anymore. If it cools off too much, you can set it in a low-temperature oven to warm it up again. The recipe I used suggested 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but I’ve seen as low as 170 degrees Fahrenheit recommended. I’ve also heard that you need to be careful about letting the dyed portion of the batter sit too long in the oven, so keep that in mind when you’re planning it all out.
After reading through several recipes, I selected the one from Bay Area Bites for my experiment. It had the best explanation I could find and better estimates of how long each step would take. Plan on an hour to an hour and a half of uninterrupted time to devote to the candy canes. That’s not always easy to do, but I luckily found a kid-free morning to tackle it.
Before we get to my version, why don’t you check out how the other ladies’ candy canes turned out here:
Alright. Are you ready? This will go fast. Read through it a couple times before you start, because there won’t be time for second-guessing once you’ve begun this journey. Hold on tight! Let’s hope it’s not a bumpy ride!
vegetable oil for greasing pans, tools, and gloves (and gloves!)
3 cups granulated sugar (the white stuff; there are less impurities to mess up your project)
1 cup light corn syrup
⅓ cup water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons peppermint oil (not extract; you can find this at Michael’s stores, if you’re having a hard time sourcing it; it comes in convenient 2 1-dram bottle packages, which is exactly how much you need)
green food coloring (some suggest gel colors, but this recipe actually said about ⅓ bottle of the regular little food colorings, so that’s what I used)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Heavily grease two rimmed baking sheets, a bench scraper, kitchen shears, and (in the absence of kitchen shears) a very sharp knife. Line your work area with parchment paper or a Silpat (that’s what I used) for the candy canes to cool on. Put one of the prepared baking sheets in the oven to warm.
Grab a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add to it the sugar, corn syrup, water, cream of tartar, and salt. Stir, then clip on your candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Do not stir again. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan, as needed. Cook the syrup until it reaches 310 degrees Fahrenheit (hard crack stage).
Get your gloves on!
Pour the syrup on the room temperature baking sheet and drizzle the peppermint oil over it. Use the bench scraper to work the oil into the syrup by scraping the bottom of the candy and folding it over the top. Do this several times, trying to distribute the peppermint oil throughout the syrup, before adding the vanilla and repeating. Keep cutting and folding until it becomes pliable, then cut in half. Put half on the heated baking sheet in the oven to keep it warm. This is the half that will be dyed later.
To make the white portion of the candy canes, you don’t need any dye; the color will develop as you pull the candy (in fact, that will be an indication that you’ve pulled it enough).
Generously oil up your hands–it’s time to get your work-out. Scrape up the candy into a ball and stretch it out into rope with your hands. Fold it over on itself, twist it, pull again, repeat. Go as quickly as possible–again, you can’t let it cool off too much or you won’t be able to work the candy (it will be hot, so you’ll want to work quickly anyway). As you continue on, the candy will change color and gain a sheen. Once it has turned white, return it to its baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.
Remove the other half of the batch and pour the green dye over it. You’ll need a lot, but you can adjust it to how pure you want the color to be. I used ⅓ of a tiny bottle of regular ole food dye. Use the bench scraper to work the color into the candy. You don’t need to pull this half of the candy. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to warm it up.
Once the candy is warm enough to work with, remove both halves from the oven. Roll each half into logs and cut them into 4 pieces. Take a white and a green piece, then return the rest to the oven to keep them warm. (They may melt back into a blob again; just cut off pieces as needed.)
Line up the green and white pieces next to each other, press together, then begin twisting them, working as thin as you’d like. Use the oiled kitchen shears or sharp knife to cut every 4 inches. Work a hook into each section, pinch the ends, and place on the parchment paper/Silpat to cool completely. Continue working with the rest of the twisted candy.
Repeat with the remaining sections in the oven, working with a pair of pieces at a time. If they start to get too cool to work with, return them to the oven for a few minutes to soften up.
Cool completely before consuming (about 15 minutes). Wrap each candy cane with cellophane or plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Candy will last for a few months.
*When you add the peppermint oil, prepare for a good cry fest. It was worse than any time I’ve ever chopped onions. At least my sinuses were good and clear after. And my house will smell great for eternity. Or at least through Christmas. **Everything will require a good soaking after. Including any burns (not that **I** burned myself or anything…).
So how’d that go? I’d love to see the candy canes you make! (I’d also love to play around with the flavorings–they don’t have to be peppermint or red and white!)
Next month we’ll be making Sticky Toffee Pudding. I have never even tasted this before, so I can’t wait to make it and see what it’s like! If you’d like to join us, check out the First on the First tab above for details. We’d love to have you at the table!
There’s very little I won’t try to add alcohol to. Not only is the idea just appealing to me in the most general sense, but it can often give a wonderful dimension in flavor that wasn’t there before. Liqueurs are flavor enhancers that can take ho-hum treats to “Oh, wow!” status just by their inclusion. Pretty neat, huh?
As you already know, true fudge and I are not friends right now. 3 failed attempts at it in September have put our relationship on the rocks and until true fudge becomes more cooperative and a better team player, I don’t see us getting together anytime again soon. Microwave fudge and I, however, remain best buds. Especially now that my 4-month experiment in living without a microwave has come to an end and the microwave won. Making some microwave fudge seemed like an appropriate way to welcome it back into the kitchen.
There are two versions of this fudge I’ve made before: in 1, you add the alcohol before microwaving; today’s version involves stirring it in at the end. It’s up to you which one you prefer. Theoretically, cooking the liqueur could burn off some of the alcohol, but it’s in the microwave for so little time that I doubt it will make a difference. Consider it a bonus instead and just enjoy it for all it’s worth–I know I did!
You can’t have fudge without something to sip! I’m really digging this new Kahlúa Pumpkin Spice liqueur and I had to incorporate it in something else–this time, a martini. A cinnamon stick would have made a nice garnish but, alas, I was out of them. The shake of cinnamon on top, however, is the perfect little accent. Pumpkin Spice season will be over before you know it-enjoy!
Note: If you have a hard time finding Kahlúa Pumpkin Spice, you can use the original Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur instead.
Thanksgiving is nearly here and I haven’t even begun to plan. Luckily, we’ll be feasting at my sister-in-law’s house–my contribution is just a small part of the whole shebang–but I still feel like such a slug for not at least having an idea of what I’ll be presenting on Thanksgiving day. I really should be better at this by now. I’m 36, after all!
The problem is that I have always been a mood eater. As such, I have also always been a mood baker. I can schedule anything I want but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, if I don’t feel like it, it won’t happen. And I can have quite the rebellious spirit. I’m such a brat.
This year, I’ve had cranberries on my mind a lot. A key harvest fruit here in New England, cranberries usually get their moment in the limelight as that gelatinous goo that slides out of a can moments before being ferried to the table for the big meal. Not my idea of featuring them at their best.
I almost always volunteer to bring dessert to family gatherings and I’m quite impressed with what I’ve conceived today. Apple Crisp is one of my most favorite ways to eat apples–simple, modest, with the intoxicating aroma of pie without all the fuss. Apple Crisp is about as close as you can get in the baking world to relying upon intuition to guide you, as you would while cooking. No leavening, no eggs, and few ingredients. Fruit’s a little tart? Add more sugar. You prefer Gala apples? You should probably use less sugar. Don’t want to use sugar? You could try maple syrup. So many options! It seemed ripe for the addition of tangy cranberries.
The combination is harmonious. Different layers playing together, working off each other to create a whole far exceeding the sum of its parts. A little buttery goodness in the crunchy topping, apples that are perfectly sweetened and have great texture, and then the cranberries come in, tart and tangy, slapping your taste buds and calling them to attention. Wow! I am loving this! Add a little bit of sweetened whipped cream and you have the perfect Thanksgiving dessert.
Will I bring this to our Thanksgiving repast? That remains to be seen. But I highly recommend it for yours! Or for any time you want a little something fruity that’s not too sweet. Happy Thanksgiving!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a deep dish pie plate with butter or coconut oil and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the apple slices and cranberries with the ½ cup demerara sugar. Spread into the prepared dish.
In another large mixing bowl, stir the flour, oats, remaining sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt. Cut the butter up into chunks and cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two knives, working the butter in until you have small chunks of it throughout.
Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes, or until fruit is tender and the topping is crisp and lightly browned.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.