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Candies & Truffles

Our annual holiday party is in a couple weeks, and as usual, I started menu planning, shopping, cooking and baking in late October. I usually serve heavy appetizers and desserts, enough for 30-50 people.

Between hosting several out-of-town relatives for Thanksgiving this year and having a crazy work schedule, I’ve tried to simplify this year’s holiday party just a little bit. Well, maybe I should say, I’ve tried to reduce the time I spend in the kitchen while still putting out an impressive spread. Instead of time-intensive Oreo Truffles and Peanut Butter Balls, I decided that this year, I would do a trio of chocolate bark. Still impressive and tasty, but definitely easier on my time.

This first bark recipe was adapted from Bakers Royale.

The below recipe makes an 8×8 pan, although I doubled (using 1 full package of Oreos) it for the holiday party.

Cookies & Cream Bark

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. good white bakers chocolate (coarsely chopped)
  • 15 regular Oreos, crushed
  • 3 regular Oreos, crushed and set aside for topping

Instructions:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, enough for a 1-in. overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Melt chocolate in a double broiler, stirring regularly until all chocolate has been melted and chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Add crushed Oreos, stirring to combine. Pour into prepared pan. Use a spatula to even out chocolate. Sprinkle with remaining 3 crushed Oreos. (This is optional, but if you don’t, your bark will have a slightly greyish color from the Oreo crumbs mixing with the white chocolate.)
  4. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until chocolate has set.
  5. Remove pan from fridge and with either end of the parchment paper, lift bark out of pan and onto counter.
  6. Break into pieces, using a fork to assist if needed. Or, for a cleaner look, cut with a knife.

Store in the fridge or at room temperature until ready to serve.

Looking for ideas for your own holiday party? Check out my menus for our 2009 and 2010 holiday parties.
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Go Big Or Go Home

This is a big year for many of my friends – the bit 3-0. Everyone is choosing a different way to celebrate. We had a ladies weekend at the spa for the first 30th birthday of the year, enjoying massages, pedicures, wraps, and the like for one friend’s birthday. For the second and most recent birthday, another friend hosted a birthday BBQ and asked K and I to bake her cupcakes. We were excited to provide dessert for the BBQ and the three of us made a night out of baking. We had a great night munching on a tomato-mozzarella tartlet, drinking limoncello cosmopolitans (had to beg a neighbor for ice), and baking up a storm. For the celebration, we made Cosmo Cupcakes and Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes or what K’s friend fondly dubbed “boozecakes.”

In the spirit of “go big or go home,” I decided to garnish my Limoncello Cupcakes with slices of candied lemon.  These sweets were easy to make, but did take a while. It took about two days before the syrup to dry enough for me to handle them. Completely worth it. Like any good cook, I had to try the lemon slices before serving… again and again and again. They’re very sweet, with a slightly stronger taste in the candied rind, and set on top of a cupcake, make a striking presentation. Not going to lie, I was also eating the leftover lemon syrup with a spoon (but would probably be a great addition to a hot or sweet tea or mixed drink).

 Candied Lemon Slices 

Adapted from Use Real Butter

Makes 1-3 dozen slices

Ingredients:

  • 1-3 lemons
  • 2 c. sugar
  • water

Cut lemons into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, 10-12 slices per lemon. If the slices tear easily, they’re too thin.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath and set aside. When water is boiling, blanch lemons for 1 minute. Remove with a strainer and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.

In another medium saucepan (or the one you just used) over medium heat, bring 1 c. water and the sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Lower to a simmer and add lemon slices. Simmer for 1-2 hours (I did about 90 minutes).

As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.

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When I had been planning our annual holiday party, I also try to do a mix of sweets – not too much chocolate, not too many unusual or different desserts… but I do like to try out new recipes and get a bit creative. This Vanilla Fudge paired perfectly with the Chocolate “Dummy” Fudge, but gave me a bit of a challenge. I was a little nervous about heating the heavy cream, afraid it would curdle, but this fudge turned out to be one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made.

Note: This fudge will be softer than the Chocolate “Dummy” Fudge, but once it sets, it will melt in your mouth.

Vanilla Fudge

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes a 9×9 pan (about 80 1-inch pieces)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Prep Work: Butter a 9×9 inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper (I had the parchment paper hang over the edges, but if you don’t, you’ll need a sharp knife to remove fudge from dish) and butter the paper. Set aside on a wire baking rack.

Prepare a small bowl of water and a pastry brush – set both by the stove.

Place butter in a large mixing bowl and set aside. The fudge batter will later be added to this bowl.

Make the Fudge: In a medium, heavy saucepan combine cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly (about 10 minutes). Raise heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil. As mixture heats, wash down sides of pan with the wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.

When boiling, attach candy thermometer to pan and continue cooking until mixture reaches 238F, the soft-ball stage. This will take 10-15 minutes. Do not stir mixture during this time!

When mixture reaches 238F, remove from heat and pour immediately into the bowl with butter. Do not scrape bottom or sides of the pan. Transfer candy thermometer to bowl and allow to cool until it reaches 110F, about 90 minutes. During this time, do not touch the bowl.

When the mixture cools to 110F, remove thermometer and using a wooden spoon, gently stir the mixture. Gradually increase speed, stirring until the mixture lightens in color and “loses it sheen,” about 5 minutes.

Pour into buttered pan, using a spatula or knife to ensure the fudge is spread evenly. Allow to cool in the pan on the wire rack for 1 hour.

Cover in Plastic Wrap and Refrigerate until fudge is set, at least 8 hours. When ready to cut, use parchment paper to lift fudge out of pan and onto a work surface. Cut with a sharp knife.

Storage: The original directions said that the fudge can be stored in the fridge between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container for up to 1 week, bringing to room temperature before serving. I stored it a little longer than a week (in muffin liners) before moving to the freezer (with no parchment paper or lines) and it worked out just fine.   🙂

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I’m not a huge Paula Deen fan, but this recipe was too easy not to try. It’s a great recipe to make ahead for parties or to give as a gift. The fudge is just slightly sweeter than a plain chocolate fudge, thanks to the butterscotch chips. After our holiday party, there were only a few pieces left, so I call this recipe a success!

Chocolate “Dummy” Fudge with Coconut

Adapted from Paula Deen’s Dummy Fudge Recipe

Makes a 9×9-inch pan (about 80 1-inch pieces)

Ingredients:

  • butter
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. butterscotch chips
  • 1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. toasted sweetened coconut (or nuts or other mix ins of your choice)

Butter a 9×9 inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.

In a bowl set over boiling water, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips and condensed milk. Stir regularly, until smooth. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and 3/4 c. coconut. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading to even it out. Top with remaining coconut.

Refrigerate until fudge is set, about 10 minutes.

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Remember the story about me being a weird kid and not liking cheese to such an extent that I would take the cheese off my pizza? Well, here’s another one of those fun facts about me – I was the kid that used to (and still does) eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, minus the jelly. In fact, when I met A, that’s how I knew we would become best friends. We both ate plain peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.

Peanut butter is a staple in my diet. I love peanut butter on a toasted English muffin for breakfast, or in a protein bar. No lunch? Easy enough to whip up a peanut butter sandwich. Snack? Who doesn’t like celery and peanut butter or peanut butter on crackers? Oh, the list doesn’t stop there…. there’s Asian pork tenderloin with peanut sauce for dessert and PB&J bars, peanut-butter filled chocolate cupcakes, or peanut butter balls for dessert.

Anyway, here’s one more great dessert recipe using peanut butter. Quick and easy to make, and best off, freezable so that you always have a sweet in the house. I’d make another batch now, but the hubby is catching on to my freezer trick…. Enjoy!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Adapted from Taste of Home

Makes approximately 3 dozen peanut butter cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 4 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate (either chocolate chips or bakers chocolate, coarsely chopped)
  • 6 oz. milk chocolate candy bars (12 mini Hershey bars or 4-1.55 oz. bars)
  • sprinkles or candies for topping (optional)

Line 3 mini muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 c. peanut butter, butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Stir until well combined.

In a microwave-safe medium bow, place remaining peanut butter, and both chocolates. Microwave in 20-30 second increments, stirring well in between, until chocolate is fully melted.

Pour a scant 1 tsp. of chocolate into the bottom of each of the cupcake liners. Top with 1/2 a teaspoon of peanut butter, and top with another teaspoon of chocolate. Sprinkle with candy if desired and refrigerate to set, a couple of hours.

Store in an airtight container.

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What’s the perfect dessert for a Wine & Cheese Party? Why more cheese of course! These bite-sized goodies took a while to make but were a star of the party, so well worth it. Anything leftover will keep in the freezer, as long as you can hide them there. 🙂

Cheesecake Truffles

Adapted from Beantown Baker

Originally from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jillian O’Connor

Makes about 60 truffles

Ingredients for Cheesecake Filling:

  • 5 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream

The Rest of the Ingredients:

  • boiling water, as needed
  • 2 lb. semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped*
  • 4 Tbs. vegetable shortening*
  • assorted decorations as desired (i.e. chopped nuts, sprinkles, chopped peppermint, etc.)

* Note: You can use candy melts instead of the chocolate / shortening mixture.

Make the Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 325F. Set water aside to boil.

In a stand mixer on low-speed, combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time,  until thoroughly combined. Add in vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan. (The directions specifically said not to use a springform pan, but since my cake pans looked small, I did anyway – it turned out just fine.) Pour the patter into cake pan, and place pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan.

Bake until cheesecake is firm and slightly browned on top, about 65 minutes (the directions said 35-40 minutes, but my was not even close to cooked at that point!)

Remove cheesecake from water bath and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours.

Make the truffles:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove cheesecake from freezer and scoop into small balls –  I used a small ice cream scoop. Roll into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet. Freeze uncovered until hard, 1-2 hours.

When frozen, prepare the chocolate for dipping. Melt half of the chocolate and shortening in a double broiler or in the microwave. Stir until completely smooth.

Lay another sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or on the counter top (my kitchen was awfully warm so I put it on the cookie sheet so that I could refrigerate the truffles, ensuring that they hardened completely.)

Remove cheesecake balls from the freezer and dip into the prepared chocolate. If desired, roll or drizzle with your favorite toppings. Set of parchment paper to harden, refrigerating if necessary.

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This was another recipe from my mother-in-law, and a quick google search brought back no results that had graham crackers in them. This is by far the favorite of her Christmas candies, which is probably why the recipe makes so many – I’m definitely need to cut this recipe in half so that I can make it more often!

Forgot a photo. I’ll have to take one when I take the rest of these goodies out of the freezer.

Peanut Butter Balls

Makes 11-12 dozen walnut-sized candies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box graham crackers
  • 3 sticks butter or margarine, melted
  • 1-18oz jar of chunky peanut butter (I had a 16 oz. and added an extra scoop)
  • 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 bags of chocolate candy-melts

Line two baking sheets with wax paper or parchment paper.

In a food processor, crush graham crackers until a fine powder.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl using a wooden spoon.

Roll into small balls – mine were walnut-sized but you can make them as big as golf balls.

Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Melt chocolate candy-melts in a microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth, microwaving more as necessary.

Using a fork, dunk peanut butter balls into chocolate and place back on wax paper for chocolate to harden (refrigerate again if you want).

Store in an airtight container until serving.

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Instead of the traditional Christmas cookies, my mother-in-law makes Christmas candies – orange balls, Oreo truffles, peanut butter balls, turtles, coconut balls…  Since we won’t be home for the holidays this year, I decided to treat my husband to two of his favorites – the Oreo Truffles and Peanut Butter Balls for our annual holiday party.

Two notes about this recipe. First, I credit the recipe to my mother-in-law, as I used what she gave me. However, there are many Oreo truffle recipes out there, with slight variations – for example, Bakers Chocolate has a recipe on AllRecipes that uses Bakers Chocolate as the chocolate coating instead of candy-melts.

Secondly, although these have cream cheese in them, my mother-in-law never refrigerated them, but rather kept them at room temperature in an air tight container.

Anyway, this is the first time I’ve made truffles, or anything that involved dipping in chocolate, so they aren’t that pretty but they were good!

Dec 2009 Update: I tried making these with white chocolate instead of candy melts, and the white chocolate just did not work – it was way too think. However, we did use plain bittersweet chocolate, melted, and that worked just fine if you don’t have candy-melts on hand.

Oreo Truffles

Yields: About 6 dozen truffles

  • 1 package Oreos, crushed
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 2 bags white-chocolate candy-melts

Line two baking sheets with wax paper or parchment paper.

Microwave cream cheese for 30 seconds or so, until soft enough to stir.

Using a wooden spoon, combine Oreos and cream cheese. If your Oreos were in larger chunks, you should be able to crush them with the spoon, so that the cream cheese and cookies are well blended.

Roll into balls, slightly smaller than a golf ball and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Melt white chocolate in microwave, stirring until completely melted.

Dip Oreo balls in white chocolate and place back on wax paper to solidify again.

Keep the Oreos in an air-tight container in a cool place or refrigerate until serving.

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