Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with decidely too much chocolate and champagne!
So last week I showed a more “manly” mid-century hot chocolate bar for Valentine’s Day and this week, we’re getting all fancy and lady-like up in here with a tea party inspired, hot cocoa bar. Jessica Foster made cinnamon milk hot cocoa, cinnamon sugar dusted marshmallows, heart chocolates and of course truffles.
Red toile plates were set with Jessica’s truffles and the most amazing cinnamon sugar dusted marshmallows (I indulged in more than a few of these…)
Invariably, a heart chocolate or two made an appearance.
So I don’t know about you, but I loovee eggnogg. I was at a friend’s house and they happen to have eggnog and were serving chocolate ice cream for dessert. I decided to combine the two, and ended up with an outrageous float that tastes like chocolate dipped in butter and cream. I added a little bit of toasted almonds for some crunch, and bam, tasty-party-time-in-my-mouth. This may be my favorite quick and easy holiday delight… And if you’re feeling super festive you could add a splash of baileys or kahlua (I won’t tell).
To make it yourself:
- Two scopes of ice cream
- Pour the eggnog over the ice cream
- Toast some sliced almonds and sprinkle on top.
To toast the almonds: 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until you can smell the almonds, watch them closely, they’ll burn if you’re not paying attention.
Enjoy! You may hate me for telling you about this later…
Now that we’ve shared some seriously delicious holiday baking recipes, there might be a few things you’d like to add to your holiday wish list! Here are some of my current favorite baking essentials (seriously how cute is the bottle/measuring cups from Anthro?). You can shop all the essentials right here:
This recipe for mini caramel apples was made up by my “On the Rocks” editor, Melissa, during our food and cocktail shoot. I bought crab apples thinking they might be an option for a holiday cocktail, but instead we ended up stuffing the crab apples with leftover caramel from the cookie recipe and ta da, bite sized caramel apple pops!
To make these guys, use the same caramel from the cookie recipe right here. Cut the crab apple in half, remove seeds and fill with caramel. Put the apple together, use a skewer or small wood dowel (these are from Michaels) and stick into the caramel, sprinkle with fleur de sel and enjoy this perfect bite sized treat (these would be freaking adorable tray passed at a fall wedding, just sayin’!)
Now that Sam’s shown us how to make caramel, we’re upping the ante around here and stuffing that sinful delight into my favorite chocolate cookie recipe that Sam modified to make it, well, even more amazing (hello, brown butter). Trust me these cookies never last more than twenty minutes at any party we bring them to, so be sure to save yourself a few at home…. Take it away Sam:
First thing’s first: make the caramel from the recipe here, with two changes:
- Do not add nuts
- Cook the caramel to 235 F instead of 245 F (making a much softer caramel)
- Brown 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) of butter in a pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. First it will foam up and bubble, then slowly little brown bits will start to appear and it will smell rich and nutty. Pour it into a bowl, little brown particles and all. If you’ve never done this before, buy extra butter so you can try again if you burn the first batch. Practice makes perfect.
- Add 3 Tablespoons of milk to the butter, and let it cool to room temperature.
- In a mixer with a flat beater (or by hand), cream the butter together with 1 cup of brown sugar.
- Cream in 1/2 cup of white sugar.
- Beat in 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, and 2 tsp. vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, mix the following ingredients together:
- 2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur flour. Good flour matters.)
- 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. of salt
- 2 cups of chocolate chips, or of your favorite chopped up dark chocolate bar
- 1 cup of toasted walnuts (optional, bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes)
- Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients on low, in three parts. I can’t stress this enough: mix the dough as little as possible, just until it looks like cookie dough. Do not overmix!
Now that you have delicious caramel and cookie dough, you’re ready to bake! Roll a small amount of caramel into a ball, about the size of a grape, in your hand. Seal 1/4 cup of cookie dough around the caramel ball. Don’t leave cracks or it will leak. Put 6 of these cookies on a baking sheet, and make sure there’s plenty of room between them.
Bake the cookies for about 7 minutes, then rotate the sheet (or sheets), and check after another 7 minutes for doneness. Remove them when they are perfectly golden brown. These cookies, warm or cold, are crispy on the outside, and wonderfully chewy and rich on the inside. If you want a real treat, eat them warm under your favorite ice cream. I hope you love them as much as I do!
It’s holiday baking week here at SB Chic, and I’m very excited to welcome my husband, Sam, as my newest contributor. He’s the resident chef around these parts and he’s been making various forms of caramel for over a year now. He’s developed a number of tasty recipes which we’ll be featuring throughout the week. First up: chewy caramel bites with toasted pecans. Trust me, you can’t have just one. Take it away Sam:
Hey, I’m excited to be posting on SB Chic for the first time! Let’s get one thing out of the way about caramel, though: it is picky and it is hot. Get yourself a candy thermometer and be careful. The base for this recipe comes from Mark Bittman, and I like it because it’s a lot easier than other caramel recipes; by adding corn syrup, you’re ensuring that it doesn’t recrystallize mid-way through, and by putting most ingredients in at the beginning, you lower the risk of burning the caramel or yourself putting liquids in molten sugar. Let’s get started!
Chop up a cup of pecans, spreading them evenly on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F. Start checking after about 10 minutes. It should take about 15 minutes to get them nice and toasty on the outsides without burning underneath. Set them aside in a small bowl to cool.
For the caramel, put the following ingredients into a light-colored, thick-bottomed saucepan and make sure there’s plenty of extra room in there:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of cream
- 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
- 4 tablespoons of butter (1/2 stick)
- a pinch of salt
Light colored pans are good because you can see the color, and thick pans are good because the sugar heats evenly. Turn the heat to medium and stir the caramel continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Put the spoon aside after that, and resist urges to mess with the pot while it heats.
During this time, butter an 8×8 square pyrex dish (or similar) very well, and sprinkle some sea salt or fleur de sel on the bottom. Also, measure out a teaspoon of vanilla and set it aside next to your spoon, some pot holders, and the greased dish.
The mixture will heat up and start bubbling gently, first at the edges and then all over. It will hit about 225F and stay at that temperature for some time as the water evaporates. Keep your eye on it though: it doubles in volume, and you want to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Also, as soon as the temperature starts rising above 225 F, things start to change quickly. If it looks like the caramel is heating unevenly (color appears in some places but not others), stir it very gently. You’re looking for a light brown color, where the caramel hits 245 F. On a candy thermometer, that’s just higher than “soft ball”. In a series of quick steps:
- Get your trusty spoon
- Turn off the range
- Vigorously stir in the nuts and vanilla
- Get the pot holders and pour the caramel in the 8×8 dish, like so:
It will smell awesome and look gorgeous, but now is the time to tell you: do not try to sample the caramel while it’s soft. You will burn your mouth. Cool the dish on a rack at room temperature. It will take a while, more than an hour. When the bottom of the dish is no longer hot, use a knife to pull the sides of the caramel away from the edge of the dish all around. Use your fingers to pry the caramel out of the dish and onto a big piece of wax paper. Quickly flip it over so that the uglier bottom side stays on the bottom; that will help it flatten again as it continues to cool. If you’re a salt-hound like me, finish it with more fleur de sel:
Using a dry, room temperature metal knife, cut the square into strips, then cut the strips into little rectangles or squares. You can eat them over the next couple days, or wrap them in wax paper and they’ll keep for a few weeks (just avoid any moisture).