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
Prep time: 
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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.

English Toffee

Toffee topped with chocolate or chocolate and almonds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Toffee
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy, Snacks, Gifts, Vegetarian
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Yield: 2+ pounds
 
This recipe makes a crunchy, nutty, chocolate-covered toffee that is perfect for holiday gifts and parties. You will probably have to make more than one batch as it is pretty irresistible. Candy gets very hot when it is cooking, so this is not a good recipe to make with children. Store the candy in an airtight container or it will tend to get sticky. If you use salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe. This is the kind of recipe where having the right tools can make a big difference in how easily the job is accomplished, but you can make this uncomplicated candy even if you have none of these tools. A candy thermometer, offset spatula, non-stick silicone spatula and non-stick silicone pan liner make this so simple any cook can be successful with little effort. I prefer to prepare the candy with small nut pieces/nut dust on top of the chocolate layer, as it is neater to break and eat. You can put chocolate on both sides of the candy by leaving about 1/3 of the chocolate aside and melting it for application once the first side has set, but I find that unnecessary.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (bar broken into small pieces or 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips)
Instructions
  1. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they are slightly darker throughout. Do not over-toast or the nuts will taste bitter. Using a silicone pan liner such as Silpat reduces the chances of burning the bottoms of the nuts and allows you to toast the nuts without any stirring. Let the nuts cool. Using a rocking motion, chop them into small pieces with a chef’s knife, holding the point of the knife against the cutting board and lifting the handle slightly and rotating the knife to a new position for the next cut. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the smaller pieces and 'dust' to use for topping the candy.
  2. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a silicone pan liner such as Silpat.
  3. Place the butter, sugar, salt and water in a heavy pan on medium heat. The mixture will foam up as it cooks, so the pan should be at least twice as deep as the ingredients. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture. Cook, swirling the mixture occasionally until the foaming subsides. At this point, the candy will cook rapidly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon until the candy reaches the hard-crack stage at 300 degrees (see Note). The candy will be a golden brown caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat immediately. The temperature will continue to rise. Working quickly, stir in the vanilla and the larger quantity of nuts. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread and smooth the surface with your spatula or spoon to about 1/4 inch. Distribute the chocolate pieces over the candy and allow them to melt for two minutes. Spread the chocolate over the surface. An offset spatula will help spread it evenly. Sprinkle the almond dust/nuts that you put aside onto the chocolate, pressing them in lightly to help them adhere. Cool the candy until the chocolate is set, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container with waxed or parchment paper between the layers. You can also put the candy in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
  4. Note: If you are not using a candy thermometer, you can test for the hard crack stage by dropping a little of the molten syrup into very cold water that you have standing by next to the stove. At hard crack it will form brittle threads that break when bent. Be careful not to touch thick pieces of candy in the water as they are likely to be hot. You cannot leave the candy on the heat while you are testing or it will burn the sugar and cause the caramel to be bitter.

 

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.