Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Fruit, etc.

Chocolate Coated Pretzel and Dried Apricot

Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Fruit, etc.
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Candy, Gift
Prep time: 
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Yield: Varies by size and type of dippers
 
During the holiday season, a favorite gift is chocolate coated pretzels, dried fruit, maraschino cherries or fresh fruit such as strawberries. The trick to making chocolate covered anything is to temper the chocolate. Once you have tempered the chocolate, you can dip whatever tasty treats you care to dip and place them on trays to cool completely and solidify. Properly tempered chocolate sets up easily into a glossy coating for your treats. While the process seemed scary to me for many years, it is a simple matter of controlling the temperature of the chocolate and mixing in unmelted chocolate to provide the seeds of the crystalline structure required for the glossy coat and snap of tempered chocolate.
Ingredients
  • Approximately 1 pound block or bar of good quality eating chocolate (Do not use chips as they don’t seem to temper the same way.)
  • Goodies to dip
Instructions
  1. To temper the chocolate use a serrated knife to make cuts that shave thin slices off the corners of the bar or block. Turn the block to get fairly small surfaces to cut and continue until the entire bar is cut up into small pieces.
  2. Put half the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a double boiler. If you are using a double boiler, do not allow boiling water to touch the bottom of the upper pot or get into the chocolate, which will make the chocolate seize up into a hard mass that cannot be tempered and will have to be used in a recipe that calls for a lot of liquid. If you are using the microwave oven, cook on high power for 30-60 seconds and stir to equalize the temperature throughout the chocolate. Cook for another 30-60 seconds and stir again until all of the chocolate is melted and the temperature reaches 105-115 degrees F. If you need to, cook again in 10 second increments, stirring after each increment until you get a uniform temperature and all the chocolate is melted. If you are using a double boiler, stir over hot water just until the chocolate is all melted and reaches temperature. Remove from the heat. If you overshoot on the temperature, stir and let the chocolate cool at room temperature until it reaches 115 degrees F or less.
  3. Add the remaining half of the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is uniformly melted and the temperature reaches 88 degrees F. At this point the chocolate is tempered and can be used for dipping.
  4. When I dip pretzels, I use the hook end of a large unbent paper clip to hold the pretzel. I dip it into the chocolate and drag it on a non-stick silicone sheet lined pan to remove excess chocolate and then place it on a clean non-stick silicone sheet or parchment paper to set. At this point you can garnish with sprinkles, colored or plain sugar crystals, or other decorations. You need to garnish before the chocolate sets, so work quickly. Fresh fruit such as strawberries can be held by their hulls and things like dried apricots can be held with tongs or fingers and dipped only half-way. When you dip things like fresh fruit or maraschino cherries, make sure that you have dried the surface before attempting to dip so that the chocolate will adhere.
  5. Leftover tempered chocolate and the drips you have on your “excess” pan can be gently reheated to 88 degrees if they get too solid to work with.

Magic Chocolate Cake (vegan)


Magic Chocolate Cake (vegan)
Author: 
Recipe type: Cake, Bakery, Snack, Dessert
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Yield: 9
 
This vegan cake is made without milk or eggs and is moist, dark and delicious. It is a simple snack cake that can be put together in minutes without any special tools or ingredients provided you have unsweetened cocoa on hand. It is easy to make at the last minute for unexpected guests. Cakes like this one were developed during the depression era when butter and eggs were expensive or unavailable. For the holidays, I like to use mint flavored chocolate candies to make a light topping for the cake. All it really needs is a dusting of powdered sugar, but you can make that even more attractive by placing a pretty doily over the cake and sprinkling the sugar on top of that. Carefully remove the doily, leaving the pretty design in place.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Icing, mint chocolate candies, or powdered sugar as desired for the top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together. Sift into an 8x8 inch ungreased cake pan. Make three depressions. Pour oil into one, vinegar into the second, and vanilla into the third well. Pour the water over all, and stir with a fork until the batter looks even in color and well blended.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or the top springs back when pressed lightly. Top with Andes Mints or chopped Frango Mints while the cake is hot and spread them over the surface after they have had a couple of minutes to melt, frost with your favorite icing when the cake is cool or dust with powdered sugar.

German Chocolate Cake Cookies


German Chocolate Cake Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies, Bakery, Dessert, Snack, Gift
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Yield: 24-32 bars
 
The original recipe for these cookies came to me from a summer intern when I was managing a software team. I changed the filling so that it would be more like a real German Chocolate Cake and changed the technique a little. These rich cookies now have a chocolate chip, pecan, coconut caramel filling. Heaven for German Chocolate Cake fans.
Ingredients
Caramel layer
  • 44 caramels ( 1 bag of Brach Milk Maid caramels usually works )
  • 1/3 cup evaporated Milk
Cake
  • 1 German Chocolate Cake packaged cake mix
  • 1/3 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
Filling
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup broken pecan pieces
  • 1 cup toasted shredded or flaked coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Caramel layer
  1. Heat the caramels and evaporated milk together over low heat, stirring occasionally. Keep the mixture warm so that this is ready to pour over the base later.
Filling
  1. While the caramel is melting, mix the chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut in a bowl.
Cake
  1. Mix the cake mix and butter until no lumps are visible. A pastry blender works well for this. Stir in the milk to make a soft dough. Reserve 1/3 of the dough in the refrigerator. Press 2/3 of the dough in the bottom of a non-stick 13 x 9 baking pan, making a small rim around the edge. Bake for 6 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the partially baked dough. Pour the caramel mixture over the top of the filling. Pat the rest of the dough into small flat pieces with your finger tips and distribute on top of the caramel mixture to cover as much of the filling as you can, patching the pieces together if necessary.
  3. Bake again for 18-22 minutes.
  4. When the cookies have cooled a bit and the caramel is set, cut into 24 or 32 pieces. Cutting this into small pieces works because the cookies are very rich. Do not try to cut this before the caramel has set or it will ooze out and stick the cookies back together.

Tropical Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Tropical Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Bakery
Prep time: 
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Yield: 15
 
This tasty tropical cake contains no butter or oil (except for preparing the pan) if you don’t add frosting. You can replace the frosting with just a dusting of powdered sugar or serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, but the cream cheese frosting is rich and delicious. It is a dense cake, not a fluffy, tall one, and a small piece is a good-sized serving. We like it with sliced banana under the frosting and toasted coconut on the top. You can add other fruit to the cake batter if you like. This should be really good with some chopped cranberries in the cake, but I haven’t tried that yet. I serve it directly from the pan, but if you want you can remove it from the pan after 10 minutes and cool it on a rack before you frost it.
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon for preparing the pan
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 can 20 ounces crushed pineapple packed in juice - undrained
  • 1/2 cup broken walnuts
  • Oil, butter or pan spray for preparing the pan
Frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (Do not use the salt if you are using salted butter.)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted if there are lumps
Optional
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 cup toasted shredded coconut
Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan with butter, oil or pan spray. Dust with flour by pouring in a tablespoon of flour and tipping the pan around until the whole surface is covered with flour. Tap the pan upside down over the sink or trash bin to remove any excess flour. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix well and break up any baking soda lumps if you have some. Mix the wet ingredients and add to the dry ingredients stirring just until combined. Stir in the nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is golden and springs back to a light touch.
  2. Cool the cake. When it has cooled, you can cover the surface of the cake with banana sliced into thin coins just before you frost the cake.
Frosting:
  1. Cream the butter, cream cheese, salt and vanilla together until soft and fluffy using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Beat in the powdered sugar. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake. If you used the banana slices, you can put small dollops of frosting on banana slices and use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the cake. If desired, sprinkle toasted, shredded coconut over the frosting.

Thanksgiving Sugar Cookies


Thanksgiving Sugar Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Bakery, Cookies, Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Yield: 5 dozen
 
Just about everybody loves sugar cookies and these buttery cookies with the melt-in-your-mouth addition of cream cheese are especially lovable. They are flavored with the warm spices of the holiday season. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can use cinnamon and a little nutmeg, grated with a microplane instead. They are not like the heavier shortbread cookies, nor as “tough” as a rolled or pressed cookie. The flavor is more complex than a Snickerdoodle and I don’t find these cookies to be as doughy. They are fairly delicate and crispy and it is very hard to eat just one…or two…or three. While I call them Thanksgiving Sugar Cookies, I am thankful that they are delicious any time of year. I was trying to count how many I made in this last batch so I could write the number down for you with some authority, but I started eating them as I put them on the cooling rack. I’m pretty sure it made around 5 dozen cookies.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter – 2 sticks or 1/2 pound (leave at room temperature for about an hour)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (leave at room temperature for about an hour)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar + more for dipping a glass to press the cookies
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl. Beat in the sugar (and salt, if using) until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix the flour, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice together until the color is uniform. (Be sure to get any lumps out of the baking powder before pouring it in the flour.) Stir the dry ingredients and wet ingredients together just until combined. Chill an hour or more to firm up the dough to make it more manageable.
  2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll tablespoons of the dough into balls quickly with the palms of your hands. Place them on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. A one-tablespoon spring-loaded scoop makes this very easy. Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Rub a very small amount of cookie dough (to make the sugar adhere) on the flat bottom of a glass or a small metal measuring cup that fits in the shallow bowl. Dip the glass in the sugar and flatten each ball of dough into a thin circle, dipping the glass back into the sugar for each cookie.
  3. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.

Clouds with Custard and Fruit



Clouds with Custard and Fruit
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts, Vegetarian
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Yield: 12
 
This is a variation of the classic Pavlova dessert. It is a simple meringue, baked into crisp little nests for custard filling and ripe berries. I developed this recipe to enter a contest held by the local hospital for heart healthy recipes. This was a winner in the dessert category. The hospital’s chef prepared a wonderful dinner for us, serving our winning entries. It was a little early for strawberry season and that was the only berry he used as cost was probably a consideration, but he enhanced the flavor of the strawberries with a little lemon juice and thinly sliced mint leaves. You might choose to do the same. I find they make an elegant presentation when each person has an individual serving, but you must assemble the dessert just prior to serving or the custard and berries will start to melt your crisp meringue shell. If fat and calories are not an issue for you, you can use whole milk for the pudding and perhaps even serve the clouds with a pouf of whipped, sweetened heavy cream with a touch of vanilla extract. It would not even be outrageous if you decided to make only 8 servings with this quantity of ingredients. When making the meringue, separate the yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold so that the yolks won't break as easily. It is helpful to use a small bowl to put each egg white into while separating so that if you accidentally break a yolk, you will only lose the single egg white. Use a very clean bowl and beaters and ensure that not a bit of yolk has gotten into the egg whites. Any fat in the whites will stop them from beating up into a stiff meringue.
Ingredients
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature for greatest volume)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small package Vanilla Instant Pudding (can use sugar-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold low-fat or skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries (any combination of, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 225ºF.
  2. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  3. Spread the meringue into 12 small circles or one big circle on parchment-covered baking sheets, indenting center slightly. Bake 1-1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in until cool. You can leave them overnight. If you make them ahead, store in an airtight container or they will absorb moisture and get sticky.
  4. Whisk the pudding mix, milk and flavoring in a medium bowl for 2 minutes until thickened. Refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, stir the pudding to make it creamier, place the meringues on plates and fill the centers with the pudding. Top with berries and dust with powdered sugar. (If you have a tea strainer or mesh ball, that is an easy way to sprinkle the sugar without much mess.)

Chocolate Pudding


Flavored with orange and garnished with orange zest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Pudding
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts, Snacks, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 1/2 cup servings
 
When the weather starts turning colder, my thoughts move to comfort food and nothing says comfort better than chocolate pudding. There is no comparison between home-cooked pudding and instant pudding or those little tubs of pudding you find in the supermarket refrigerated section. Since this comes together in minutes, there is no reason to deprive yourself of the chocolaty goodness. You can use vanilla, almond, orange, or any flavoring you like with chocolate, but start with no more than half a teaspoon and taste before adding more. Some flavoring agents are very strong. My favorite is orange extract. For a mocha flavor, dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee granules into the mixture before you start cooking it. An attractive way to serve the pudding is to layer it with berries or bananas and whipped cream in a parfait glass. If you need an almost effortless dessert for guests, you can pour the pudding into a pre-baked pie shell or graham cracker crust, chill, and top it shortly before serving with swirls of sweetened whipped cream scented with a little vanilla extract. This is an excellent recipe for making with children, especially if you use the microwave oven method.
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 cups milk, half and half, or soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of other flavoring
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan (stove-top method) or 2 quart microwave-safe bowl, sift the dry ingredients together or whisk them together thoroughly until there are no little lumps. Whisk in the cold milk using a small amount at first and then the rest once all the dry ingredients are moistened. Using the stove-top, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly at the end, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. In a microwave oven, cook on high stirring at 1 minute intervals for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flavoring. Spoon into serving dishes. If you are not cooling the pudding in individual serving dishes, you can cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to avoid the formation of a “skin”. Garnish and serve.