Jelly Bean Brittle

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Hop. Hop. Hippidy Hop. That bunny is heading our way, and wouldn’t it be nice if he arrived with a basket of homemade Easter candy? Jelly Bean Brittle is awesome for so many reasons… it’s super easy (Can you boil water? That’s about the only skill you need!), doesn’t require any expensive ingredients, and unlike peanut brittle, is completely free of common allergens. This recipe makes a great big pan (about 2 1/2 pounds’ worth) – perfect for an office or a classroom!

The only special item you will need is a candy thermometer. Now, don’t panic – a candy thermometer looks like any other thermometer, and just clips right onto your pot. All you need to do is READ it, and if you are reading this blog post, you’ve got that skill locked. Here is a link to the simple candy thermometer that I use:

Taylor Classic Line Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer

It’s less than $6, and if you order it today you’ll be able to make Jelly Bean Brittle before Easter. You’re welcome. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150329_131938Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 pounds)

1 pound bag of mini jelly beans

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

WIN_20150329_1329121/4 cup butter (not margarine)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (no lumps!)

Directions

Step 1) Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a big, old pot. The tip of the thermometer should not be touching the WIN_20150329_132803bottom of the pot. Add sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat slightly (low-medium) and allow to continue boiling until the temperature gauge on your candy thermometer reaches the line WIN_20150329_134459labeled “Hard Crack” or 295 degrees. Be patient – this will take 20 – 30 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.

Step 3) While your mixture boils, prepare your pan. First, cover your largest baking pan with aluminum foil; don’t forget to cover the sides. Next, grease the aluminum foil with the wrapper from a stick of butter. Then, evenly distribute jelly beans on the WIN_20150329_134509foil.

Step 4) When your boiling mixture reaches the Hard Crack stage, turn off the heat and sprinkle baking soda into the pot. STIR QUICKLY! A chemical reaction will take place, causing the boiling mixture to foam and froth. This is normal – and exciting!

Step 5) After stirring, pour mixture over jelly WIN_20150329_134600beans. Working quickly, spread mixture evenly over the entire pan.

Step 6) After about 10 minutes, your jelly bean brittle will be ready to break apart into bite size pieces. Store in an airtight container to keep nice and fresh!

PS – About that pot… just add a drop of dish soap and fill with BOILING water. It’ll come clean in seconds.  😉

Springtime Chocolate Truffles

WIN_20160313_171730At Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love chocolate truffles. They’re ridiculously easy to make, beautiful when dipped in chocolate coating, and make lovely hostess gifts. This recipe for Springtime Chocolate Truffles is so easy – what are you waiting for?

Ingredients (Makes about 36 truffles)

4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips Continue reading

Chocolate Easter Egg Cookies

Chocolate Easter Egg Cookies

WIN_20160321_213809Springtime is perfect for festively decorated cookies, and what could be more festive than cookies decorated to resemble brightly colored Easter eggs? Today’s recipe begins with a rich, delicious sugar cookie and ends with a deceptively simple decorating technique. You won’t need buttercream frosting today, folks… we’re using something even more amazing!

WIN_20160321_152817Ingredients (Makes 24 large cookies)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg Continue reading

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

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Here’s a new spin on an old favorite, a truffle that tastes like a peanut butter cup! While some truffle recipes are a bit fussy, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles are super easy. You can use either creamy or chunky peanut butter, depending upon the texture you prefer. You could even substitute the peanut butter for something a little fancier, like almond butter or crème de marron. Be creative and have fun!

WIN_20160214_123938Ingredients (Makes about 36 truffles)

4 ounces semi sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup peanut butter Continue reading

Homemade Hot Fudge

WIN_20160114_191200Homemade Hot Fudge takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and is extravagantly delicious. To enjoy this treat, don’t be afraid to think beyond classic hot fudge sundaes. Homemade Hot Fudge is also a fun dipping sauce for fresh strawberries, frozen banana chunks, biscotti, and vanilla wafers. Be creative and enjoy!

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160114_184934Ingredients (Makes about 3 cups)

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup real butter (not margarine)

2/3 cup chocolate chips

12 ounce can of evaporated milk

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After one minute

Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to combine.

Step 2) Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir constantly for 8 minutes.

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After eight minutes

Step 3) Allow to cool before serving. Hot fudge is delicious when slightly warm, but should not be literally “hot.”

Store leftover hot fudge in a glass jar (such as a pint size mason jar) in the refrigerator. Warm in a microwave for a few seconds and stir carefully before serving.

Chocolate Orange Cremes

WIN_20160219_201527Candy making doesn’t need to be complicated. Today’s recipe is super easy! You don’t need any special equipment – no candy thermometers, tempering surfaces, molds, tubes, brushes… none of that. If you have a pot and a mini muffin tin, you have all of the equipment you need to get started.

WIN_20160219_164032If you want – but this is entirely optional – you could use an inexpensive plastic candy mold instead of (or in addition to) a mini muffin tin. The molds shown here were purchased for about $2 each at a local craft store. I purchased them simply to test them alongside a mini muffin tin, and I can confirm – the mini muffin tin works just as well. If anything, the muffin tin is a bit easier to work with, because the larger size is easier to coat evenly with chocolate.

I spent about an hour making the plate of Chocolate Orange Cremes shown above. They are delicious – it was time well spent!

WIN_20160219_164101Ingredients (Makes about 30 candies)

1/2 pound of bulk chocolate coating (milk or dark, such as Ambrosia brand) -AND/OR- Wilton brand Candy Melts (any color)

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

WIN_20160214_162404Directions

Step 1) Melt chocolate. You can microwave chocolate coating to melt, just make sure to stop the microwave every 30 seconds to stir. I melted my milk chocolate coating in a double boiler, and melted a small quantity of orange-colored Wilton Candy Melts (to drizzle over candies) in the microwave. It really doesn’t matter how you melt your chocolate, just stir frequently and don’t burn it.

WIN_20160219_171757Step 2) Fill mini muffin tins or candy molds about 1/3 full with melted chocolate, and use a small spoon (a baby spoon works well) to push the chocolate up the sides of the tin/mold to coat the surfaces. Don’t worry, this is easy.

Step 3) Place coated tins/molds in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Step 4) While tins are cooling, beat together cream cheese and orange juice concentrate with an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until smooth.

WIN_20160219_181605Step 5) Remove tins from the refrigerator. Use a small spoon to fill each chocolate lined tin about 3/4 full with orange creme filling. Important – do not spread the orange creme filling right up to the top of the mold, especially along the edges! Just fill the molds 3/4 full. Return the tin/mold to the refrigerator for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Step 6) Remove tins from the refrigerator and spoon melted chocolate evenly over the top of the filling. It’s important to form a “chocolate seal” between the top and the side edges.

Step 7) Return filled molds to the refrigerator until chocolate is firm and looks a bit cloudy. To remove cooled Chocolate Orange Cremes from their molds/tins, simply turn the molds upside down and wiggle the candies a bit. They’ll pop right out!

WIN_20160219_195738Step 8) If desired, melt a small quantity (about 1/4 cup) of candy melts in an accent color (I used orange). Pour melted chocolate into a small zip-lock bag and cut a very small corner off of the bag. Use this homemade pastry bag to decorate your Chocolate Orange Cremes!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

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What’s even better than sneaking chocolate chip cookie dough from the mixing bowl?

How about safe-to-eat cookie dough dipped in chocolate?

Try this recipe. Happy Monday!  🙂

WIN_20160214_125852Ingredients (Makes 36 truffles)

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

WIN_20160214_1309241/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1 tablespoon milk (if needed)

1 pound milk chocolate bark

WIN_20160214_162404Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and sugars.

Step 2) Stir in vanilla extract, salt, flour, and chocolate chips. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. If dough is too dry and crumbly, sprinkle up to one tablespoon of milk over the dough and stir until a large ball forms.

WIN_20160214_175302Step 3) Roll pieces of dough into small balls, using approximately 1 teaspoon of dough per piece.

Step 4) Cover little dough balls and chill for at least one hour.

Step 5) Melt chocolate bark over low heat in a double boiler, stirring frequently.

Step 6) Use either a fork or a toothpick to dip each dough ball in chocolate. Set dipped truffles on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Step 7) Chill dipped truffles for one hour, either in a refrigerator or outside, depending upon your climate and the time of year.

Step 8) Store Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

 

 

Candy Corn Campfires

WIN_20150926_153844These adorable treats are lightning fast to prepare – perfect for your next backyard bonfire or just a cozy evening by the fireplace. Happy Halloween!

WIN_20150926_140948Ingredients

1 bag of thin pretzel sticks

1 bag of butterscotch baking chips

1 small bag of candy corn

Directions

WIN_20150926_140918Melt 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until chips are fully melted. Arrange six pretzel sticks per campfire as shown, “gluing” pairs of pretzel sticks together using a bit of the melted butterscotch. Allow assembled pretzel sticks to set for a few minutes, giving the butterscotch a chance to harden. Finally, use melted butterscotch to glue two or three candy corn “flames” to each campfire. Store in an airtight container.

Medley of Fudge

WIN_20150515_190501We’re back! Crowded Earth Kitchen celebrated the end of Exam Week by taking a hiatus. We loaded Half Pint, Pickle in the Middle, and Half Grown into the kidmobile and headed “up North” to the land of waterslides, miniature golf courses, restaurants with paper moose antler hats (seriously), ice cream parlors, and fudge shops. The kids arrived back home sleep deprived, over sugared, and smelling faintly of chlorine. In other words, they had a great time.

But about the fudge… what is it about family tourist destinations and fudge shops? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one without the other. It’s not like fudge is ever on my grocery list, but on kid-centered vacations, stopping for fudge is an absolute must.

Clockwise from the top in the photo above, we sampled root beer fudge, Heath bar fudge, classic chocolate fudge, and milk chocolate vanilla swirl fudge. Which of these treats would you like to see recreated at Crowded Earth Kitchen? Post a comment with your favorite and I’ll work on a recipe for you!

Easy Bird Nest Candy

WIN_20150403_210254One microwave. Four ingredients. Ten minutes. You’ve got this!

Bird Nest Candy is just about the simplest thing you can bring to your Easter gathering without looking like you stopped at the gas station and grabbed whatever vaguely edible thing was on display next to the lottery tickets to avoid showing up empty handed. This recipe doesn’t require you to bake anything, but don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

WIN_20150403_200546Ingredients (Makes 12 Nests)

1 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups chow mein noodles

1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional!)

12 “robin egg” candy eggs (or substitute jelly beans)

WIN_20150403_19565512 Peeps

Directions

Step 1) Microwave white chocolate chips until melted, stirring every 30 seconds.

Step 2) Stir in chow mein noodles.

Step 3) Drop heaping tablespoons of the WIN_20150403_203230chow mein/white chocolate mixture onto waxed paper. Press a robin egg candy or a jelly bean into the center of each nest.

Step 4) Set a Peep off center on each nest. If you want to make sure your Peeps don’t fall off, put a dot of melted white chocolate under each Peep.

Done! Happy Easter!

Jelly Bean Brittle

WIN_20150329_141104

Hop. Hop. Hippidy Hop. That bunny is heading our way, and wouldn’t it be nice if he arrived with a basket of homemade Easter candy? Jelly Bean Brittle is awesome for so many reasons… it’s super easy (Can you boil water? That’s about the only skill you need!), doesn’t require any expensive ingredients, and unlike peanut brittle, is completely free of common allergens. This recipe makes a great big pan (about 2 1/2 pounds’ worth) – perfect for an office or a classroom!

The only special item you will need is a candy thermometer. Now, don’t panic – a candy thermometer looks like any other thermometer, and just clips right onto your pot. All you need to do is READ it, and if you are reading this blog post, you’ve got that skill locked. Here is a link to the simple candy thermometer that I use:

Taylor Classic Line Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer

It’s less than $6, and if you order it today you’ll be able to make Jelly Bean Brittle before Easter. You’re welcome. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150329_131938Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 pounds)

1 pound bag of mini jelly beans

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

WIN_20150329_1329121/4 cup butter (not margarine)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (no lumps!)

Directions

Step 1) Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a big, old pot. The tip of the thermometer should not be touching the WIN_20150329_132803bottom of the pot. Add sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat slightly (low-medium) and allow to continue boiling until the temperature gauge on your candy thermometer reaches the line WIN_20150329_134459labeled “Hard Crack” or 295 degrees. Be patient – this will take 20 – 30 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.

Step 3) While your mixture boils, prepare your pan. First, cover your largest baking pan with aluminum foil; don’t forget to cover the sides. Next, grease the aluminum foil with the wrapper from a stick of butter. Then, evenly distribute jelly beans on the WIN_20150329_134509foil.

Step 4) When your boiling mixture reaches the Hard Crack stage, turn off the heat and sprinkle baking soda into the pot. STIR QUICKLY! A chemical reaction will take place, causing the boiling mixture to foam and froth. This is normal – and exciting!

Step 5) After stirring, pour mixture over jelly WIN_20150329_134600beans. Working quickly, spread mixture evenly over the entire pan.

Step 6) After about 10 minutes, your jelly bean brittle will be ready to break apart into bite size pieces. Store in an airtight container to keep nice and fresh!

PS – About that pot… just add a drop of dish soap and fill with BOILING water. It’ll come clean in seconds.  😉

Austrian Preserved Fruit

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Preserved Pineapple and Plum (recipe below)

The most beautiful storefront in all of Western Europe can be found on a little cobbled street in Salzburg, Austria.  In this storefront, a dazzling assortment of every imaginable kind of fruit, each beautifully and deliciously preserved, is arranged in an abundant and artful display.  It is spectacular to see.  The prices, alas, are also spectacular – spectacularly high – making this particular stop a “look but don’t touch” destination.

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While I was unable to leave with a treasure bag of purchased preserved fruit, I left with plenty of inspiration to recreate these treats at home on a more reasonable budget.  It’s actually a very simple process, and very affordable!  For less than the price of chips and salsa, you can bring a plate of jewel-toned, candy-like fruit to your next social event.  Even if your cooking skills are limited to boiling water – seriously – you can do this!

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Ingredients

2 pounds fresh fruit with a firm texture such as pineapple, mango, papaya, figs, or plums

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or clove

Directions

Step 1) Working with one type of fruit at a time (preserve different types of fruit in separate batches), peel and slice fruit into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Set aside.

Step 2) Bring sugar, water, and spice to a boil in a large, wide pot.  Allow syrup mixture to boil vigorously and reach a temperature of roughly 230 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 3) Add fruit and reduce heat to simmer.  Spread fruit pieces around with a stirring spoon so that fruit is in a single layer on the bottom of the pot, covered in syrup.

Step 4) Simmer, uncovered, until fruit looks glossy and turns translucent in color.  For pineapple, this takes approximately 30 minutes.  For plums, this takes approximately 15 minutes.  Cooking time will vary depending upon your choice of fruit and the thickness of your fruit slices.  Once fruit turns translucent in color, remove pot from heat and cover.  Allow fruit to soak in the syrup overnight.

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  Before Cooking

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After Cooking

Step 5) The next day, remove fruit from syrup with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack.  Allow fruit to dry for several days at room temperature, or speed up the drying process by placing the fruit in a slightly warm oven (absolutely no hotter than 200 degrees!) for several hours.

Step 6) After fruit is dry, sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Store in a tightly covered container.  If long term storage is needed, placing the container in a freezer will preserve optimum flavor.  Enjoy!

***Bonus!*** Save that cooking syrup!  Seriously, taste it.  The sugar syrup takes on the flavors and colors of the fruit, and stores well in the refrigerator.  A teaspoon of fruit syrup is lovely drizzled over a bowl of oatmeal.  I’m told that an ounce of syrup isn’t half bad in a martini glass with a shot or two of vodka, either.  😉