Kahlua Balls

Kahlua Balls

Kahlua Balls

Scrolling through my massive list of recipes to try, the Kahlua Balls jumped out at me. Good way to use up some of that homemade Kahlua I tried last summer!

(Note: I never blogged about the homemade Kahlua, but here are a couple notes if you use the linked recipe: you can replace the chocolate liqueur with 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, and using coarsely ground coffee beans rather than dried espresso gave a richer flavor–I tried both methods.)

So think graham crackers spread with chocolate and doused with a bit of Kahlua, but imagine all that rolled up into a ball. Yep, that’s what these are like. As you bite into a dense ball of sweetness, that Kahlua flavor pops out at you.

Good news: these come together easily and require no baking. A small cookie scoop makes the process go much more quickly, by the way.

So if you need something to bring to a party or to grace your holiday cookie tray, give these little sparkling balls of flavor a try.

Kahlua Balls

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Yield: about 50 1-inch balls

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped semisweet chocolate (I used 4 oz. dark chocolate and 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup Kahlua
  • 3 tbsp. brewed coffee or espresso
  • 3 tbsp. agave (or corn syrup)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar in which to roll balls

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl or food processor, mix crushed graham crackers, chopped chocolate, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder. (I actually roughly chopped the dark chocolate bar first, then placed that and the semisweet chips in the food processor and pulsed until finely chopped, then I added the other dry ingredients and pulsed until combined).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the Kahlua, brewed coffee, agave, and vanilla extract. Add to the food processor bowl; pulse until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Shape into 1-inch balls (a small cookie scoop speeds up this process). Roll each ball in granulated sugar.
  4. Store in an airtight container, either in the refrigerator or on the counter.

SOURCE: adapted from Sugarcrafter

“8-Layer” Truffles

8-Layer Truffles

Traditional 7-layer cookies made into truffles (or add another ingredient to make 8 layers, like I did)

Seven-Layer Truffles. The title intrigued me. The concept of taking the seven-layer cookie bar and transforming it into a bite-sized truffle tantalized my mind.

To make the truffles, instead of layering the ingredients like you do for the cookies, you mix it all together, slightly underbake, then scoop into balls, chill, and finally dip in chocolate. And then you get to bite into a divine ball of rich, chocolately sweetness. And swoon.

I ran short on graham crackers when I made these, so I substituted with some Oreo cookie crumbs; hence, my truffles were very chocolatey. Not that I minded one bit, though!

My truffle, then, isn’t quite the 7-layer…more like 8 layers. Even more flavors to delight the palate!

“8-Layer” Truffles

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Yield: I got about 4 dozen truffles using my small Oxo cookie scoop

INGREDIENTS

Truffles

  • 1 stick butter (4 oz or 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I only had 1 cup, so I used 1 cup finely chopped Oreo cookie crumbs, too)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk

For Dipping

  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp. safflower oil
  • graham cracker crumbs and shredded coconut, for garnishing

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the butter and graham cracker crumbs.
  3. Add the chocolate chips, coconut, toffee bits, and pecans; stir until evenly distributed.
  4. Add the condensed milk; stir until completely combined.
  5. Transfer mixture to the 8×8 dish; distribute evenly. Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. While dough is still warm, scoop about 1 1/2 tsp. into mounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes until firm. Dough will likely be very soft and won’t shape into balls initially, but after refrigerating, you can easily roll them between the palms of your hands to make balls.
  7. To prepare chocolate for dipping, place chopped chocolate in a double boiler (I place a glass bowl over a small saucepan filled with about an inch of simmering water), stirring frequently until chocolate melts.
  8. Remove pan from heat but keep bowl over hot water so chocolate will stay melted. Add oil and stir to combine.
  9. Dip truffles in chocolate and place on parchment paper. To garnish, sprinkle with shredded coconut or graham cracker crumbs while chocolate is still soft and melted. To dip truffles, I use a plastic fork from which I’ve removed the inner tines. This allows me to easily scoop the balls out of the melted chocolate. I lightly tap the fork on the edge of the bowl and allow excess chocolate to drip off before transferring dipped balls to the parchment-lined baking sheet. I also use a chopstick to push the dipped balls off the fork.
  10. Transfer coated truffles to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden the shells. After the shells harden, I usually trim excess chocolate from the bottom of the truffles. I simply use a small knife for the trimming.
  11. Truffles can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.

SOURCE: Kitchn.com

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

White Fudge

Festive white fudge studded with cranberries and pistachio nuts

A baking frenzy took place in my kitchen yesterday. All day–from early morning until evening–I whisked, stirred, melted, rolled, filled, dipped, and baked an assortment of cookies and candies. I made ol’ favs: Walnut Pillows, Pecan Balls, Pecan Tarts, and Macadamia Nut Butter Cookies.

And I tried a few new recipes, such as this Festive Fudge: luscious white chocolate studded with green pistachios and red cranberries. Nutty and fruity. Tart and chewy. Perfect holiday fare.

Ever made fudge? It’s a hit or miss situation with me, kind of like my caramel experiences. But this one worked easily enough: dump a bunch of stuff into a pan, boil for 4 minutes, add to chips, mix in nuts and fruit, and voila–lovely, festive fudge!

Now on to today’s project: packing all these goodies to give away as well as freezing some for Christmas day.

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (roasting optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. If you want to roast the pistachios, heat oven to 350 degrees F, spread nuts onto a pan, and roast for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pan by lining with parchment paper. Tip: spraying the pan with a bit of oil helps the parchment paper to stay in place. If you want 2-inch high fudge, use an 8 inch x 8 inch pan. If you want 1-inch high fudge, use a 9 inch x 13 inch pan (I like this option because the pieces feel more bite sized and you get a lot more fudge pieces).
  3. Place white chocolate chips in a large bowl and have electric mixer  or whisk ready. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  4. This next step involves boiling, so use a large saucepan (I used my 6 quart Dutch oven): over medium heat, bring the sugar, butter, cream, and salt to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to fully boil, set a timer for 4 minutes, continuously stirring at this point. If you use a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 230 degrees F.
  5. Pour the hot mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until chocolate is completely melted.
  6. Add cranberries, pistachios, and vanilla; stir until combined.
  7. Pour the fudge into your parchment-lined pan; use a spatula to evenly spread it. Allow to cool, which will take a couple of hours, then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator to cool for a couple more hours before cutting. When ready to cut, use a pizza cutter to make smooth, even, and straight cuts.
  8. The fudge can be stored in an airtight container, on the counter or in the refrigerator, for about a week or two. Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place in resealable bag, and freeze for a couple months.

SOURCE: adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Cookie Round Ups from the Past Few Years

Looking for some cookie ideas? For the past few years, I’ve included a series of cookie posts prior to the holidays. Not happening this year. For some reason, I baked very few cookies in 2014. However, I thought I’d share the past Cookie Round Ups. They do, after all, include some of my very favorite sweet treats.

 

 

Babbling Brook Cookies

IMG_0160

Cookie Round Up 2013

Cookie Round Up 2012

Cookie Round Up 2011

BraidedSugarCookies

 

Pumpkin Tarts (Mini Pumpkin Pies)

Pumpkin Tarts

Pumpkin Tarts with Cinnamon-Spiced Whipped Cream

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends and delighted in moist turkey, highly-caloric sides, and rich desserts.

With the past several weeks devoted to grading essays, preparing for a craft party, and baking for Thanksgiving, I finally have time to write a post. Yay!

Although I know I’m late to the Pumpkin Recipe Food Blogger Posting season, which runs from October 1st through Thanksgiving, I just have to share about these Pumpkin Tarts. Not only do these mini pies taste creamy and have an ever-so-slightly-tangy crust, but they have a lovely dollop of cinnamon-and-nutmeg-spiced whipped cream.

But I really want to share these today to tell you my tale of woe.

After slaving away at making the dough, the filling, and patiently waiting while they baked, the taste of the warm pumpkin tarts didn’t thrill me.

The following morning, though, after a stint in the fridge, I took another taste test. Much better, worthy now of taking to the holiday extravaganza.

Then the cinnamon whipped cream piped atop with a star tip made them look so adorable. Great taste + adorable looks = winner winner winner!!!

Fast forward to after-dinner-let’s-bring-on-the-dessert time.

Uh oh.

Puzzlement.

The mini pumpkin tarts had vanished. I searched high and low. I searched my brain trying to remember if I had piled the tarts on the kitchen counter along with the other zillion desserts.

After ages of wandering in circles looking for them and wracking my brain, I finally remembered that after piping on those adorable little puffs of whipped cream, I had placed the container back in the fridge.

And totally forgot to take them out before leaving!!!!!!!

Utter disappointment that I didn’t get to share these.

But now I get to eat them all!!!!

And they taste mighty delightful for both breakfast and lunch.

So, here are a few notes about the recipe:

  • I used the cream cheese dough from the Pecan Tarts recipe. Easy to work with. Can be rolled into balls and left in the muffin tins made a day or two in advance.
  • The pumpkin filling takes slightly more labor than the usual recipe for pumpkin pie but bakes into the silkiest, creamiest pumpkin pie. Totally worth it. Can also be made a day or two ahead of time, which then allows for the flavors to marry and mingle.
  • Cinnamon-spiced whipped cream. Takes this over the top. Don’t skip it!
Pumpkin Tarts

Pumpkin Tarts

Pumpkin Tarts (Mini Pumpkin Pies)

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Yield: 6 dozen tarts

INGREDIENTS

Cream Cheese Pastry Dough

  • 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), room temperature
  • 3 1/3 cups flour (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of yams in syrup, drained
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (grade B used for cooking/baking: see Huffington Post info)
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt

Cinnamon-Spiced Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch (if you want to stabilize the whipped cream, which allows it to last longer, maintain its shape, and not separate after a day)

DIRECTIONS

Cream Cheese Pastry Dough

  1. Allow cream cheese and butter to soften to room temperature. To speed this process, cut cream cheese and butter into small chunks.
  2. Blend cream cheese and butter (use wooden spoon, pastry blender, or food processor).
  3. Sift then measure flour; add salt and whisk to blend. Stir into cream cheese and butter until flour is absorbed.
  4. Form 1-inch balls (I used my small cookie dough scoop) and place into ungreased muffin tins. Chill for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove pastry from refrigerator. Form shells by using tart tamper: Dip tamper into flour to prevent it from sticking to dough. Press tamper into the dough ball in each muffin well until the dough rises up the sides and to the top. If you don’t have a tamper, press dough with thumb around the edges and bottom until muffin well is evenly covered. Place tart shells back in refrigerator until ready to use. At this point, you can cover them tightly with plastic wrap and store in fridge for a couple of days.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together heavy cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine pumpkin purée, drained yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; bring to a sputtering simmer. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly and mashing yams, until thick and shiny. (I used my immersion blender to mash the yams.)
  3. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. To remove any lumps and create a silky-smooth mixture, run it through a fine-meshed sieve. At this point, you can store filling in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or you can use immediately. If not using immediately, rewarm the mixture before filling tart shells.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Fill tart shells to the top. Carefully transfer muffin pan to preheated oven. Bake tarts for 30 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to wire rack and allow to cool completely. Chill in refrigerator overnight.

Cinnamon-Spiced Whipped Cream

  1. Using an electric or stand mixer, mix heavy cream until soft peaks form. Start at low speed and increase speed to medium-high as cream begins to thicken.
  2. When cream thickens enough to form soft peaks when you raise the beaters, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (and cornstarch if you want to stabilize the whipped cream). Beat until mixture thickens enough to maintain peaks, which shouldn’t take but a few seconds more of beating.
  3. Either dollop the whipped cream onto the tarts that have chilled overnight, or pipe onto tarts using star tip.

adapted from the following SOURCES:

Shrimp Cocktail

ShrimpCocktail

ShrimpCocktail

Greetings blog readers! No excuse for my long hiatus. With the current busy state of my life, I think blogging may continue very sporadically. My kitchen equipment and I are still a team, though, and I’ve whipped up a few dishes worthy of sharing.

And this Shrimp Cocktail is definitely worthy of sharing, yet I’ve hoarded it in my files for almost two years now. I resurrected the recipe recently when Hubby requested this for his birthday.

My mom and my aunt, both stellar cooks, often include shrimp cocktail as an appetizer for holiday gatherings. This version blows away theirs, though. The shrimp only cooks for a few minutes in water combined with a multitude of flavorings, but it really absorbs the aromatics yet not overpoweringly so. Instead, the flavors subtly creep in and stay, providing a light and refreshing citrus hint.

The cocktail sauce provides a spicy kick. Now, I am not a huge fan of cocktail sauce, but I did allow my index finger to take a teensy tiny dip into the sauce for a taste, and I could feel that spice. Hubby, however, reacted by mumbling with a mouthful of shrimp, “Mmmmmm, that’s f@#!% good.” Yep, that’s my man for ya. But his reaction definitely informed me that this recipe goes in the winner pile.

Best of all, the recipe is easy to make. For the cocktail sauce, just stir together a few ingredients. As for the shrimp, add a few seasonings to water, heat, then cool. And you can prepare all of this a day or two in advance. Go ahead, add shrimp cocktail to your cooking repertoire and impress the heck out of your guests.

Shrimp Cocktail

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INGREDIENTS

Shrimp

  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, raw & deveined
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed (I bought from bulk bins at Sprouts since I don’t often use this spice)
  • 2 lemons: cut 8 (2-inch) strips lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (save the lemon halves for later)
  • 8 cups ice

Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish (not horseradish sauce)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse the shrimp. Devein if needed. In a large pot, combine shrimp, cold water, salt, thyme, peppercorn, bay leaves, and celery seeds.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water reaches 170 degrees F and the shrimp just begin to turn pink, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from heat; add lemon peels, lemon juice, and the squeezed lemon halves. Cover the pot for 5-7 minutes, allowing shrimp to turn completely pink and firm as well as absorb the flavors.
  4. Stir the ice into the pot and allow shrimp to cool completely, about 5 minutes.
  5. Drain water. Peel shrimp, leaving tails intact. Refrigerate until ready to serve (can chill for 24 hours in advance).
  6. For the cocktail sauce, whisk together all ingredients until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made a day or two in advance.

SOURCE: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe via Cooks Country Dec/Jan 2013

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cup

mint fudge cookies & mint chip ice cream & ganache topping

I think “grasshopper” in the title of this recipe is a lot more fun than just “mint and chocolate ice cream cups,” but why is the chocolate and mint combo called “grasshopper”?

I looked it up and didn’t find much except that the grasshopper is a minty after-dinner cocktail. The creme de menthe liqueur gives the green color to the drink as well as the minty flavor while the creme de cacao adds the chocolate portion. Apparently the drink originated in New Orleans back in the 50’s.

Truth be told, in my childhood I had no desire to go near anything that mixed these two flavors. Chocolate, YES! Mint? No thanks.

Then I grew to savor the sweet coolness of the Junior Mint candies–my pick of candy at the movies in my adolescence. Later I widened my sophistication when I discovered Andes Mints in my young adulthood.

However, I never had a desire to make anything with both mint and chocolate in my desserts…until last year when I crossed paths in March with a few brownie/mint combos (St. Patty’s day, you know) ,and I have been dying to try them but haven’t made the time yet (I know, I know, March was like many moons ago).

When this recipe for chocolate & mint ice cream cups flashed across my computer screen, though, I knew I had to make it soon, and the September heatwave in So Cal brought just the right opportunity. So, when this school year’s first Salad Club invite showed up, I knew exactly which dessert I would create for the event.

These Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups make for a fun presentation, they look more complex to make than they actually are, and they taste refreshingly cool.

Below is my spin on the recipe. The original site says add a handful of this and a splash of that. Well, those kinds of directions don’t work for me, so I made sure to track measurements to share with you. Enjoy!

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cup

deeeeelish!

Grasshopper Ice Cream Cups

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Yield: 24-30 (depends on whether you use some crumbs to sprinkle tops of the ice cream cups)

INGREDIENTS

Cookie Layer

  • 1 package mint & fudge cookies (I used the Keebler brand 10-ounce package)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted

Ice Cream Layer

  • 1 quart mint chip ice cream

Ganache Topping

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar; semisweet chocolate chips would work, too)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • optional: chocolate jimmies or green sugar sprinkles

DIRECTIONS

  1. For bottom cookie layer, break cookies into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until cookies form into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse a few times until crumbs are coated with butter. (If you want to sprinkle some crumbs on top of the ice cream cups, set some aside before adding butter, about 1/4 cup. However, adjust how much butter you use. For each cup of crumbs, use 2 tbsp. melted butter.)
  2. Place 1 tbsp. crumbs into each muffin paper, then tamp down the crumbs using a tamper or the back of a spoon.
  3. Scoop 3 tbsp. ice cream into each muffin cup (I used my small cookie scoop), and either flatten the ice cream with your fingers or with the back of a spoon. Place ice cream cups in freezer while making the ganache topping. Note: If the ice cream is too hard, let it soften a bit while in the muffin paper. The first time I made these, I let the ice cream soften before scooping. The second time, I scooped while it was frozen hard and found it easier to work with than when it was softened.
  4. For the ganache topping, chop the chocolate into small bits. Place in a bowl or cup with a spout.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk, and corn syrup just until it begins to bubble. Stir it occasionally so it won’t scorch bottom of pan. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Give the bowl a tap to settle the milk into the chocolate. Let stand one minute undisturbed, then gently mix from center outward until chocolate melts and mixes into the milk.
  6. Pour the ganache over the ice cream cups to cover the ice cream (it will pour thickly). Start at outside edges and work your way to the center. Use your finger or the back of a spoon the spread the ganache to cover all exposed ice cream.
  7. If you want to sprinkle with cookie crumbs, do so quickly because the ganache will harden quickly atop the frozen ice cream. Sprinkle it on after pouring ganache onto every two muffin cups. Chocolate jimmies or green sugar sprinkles would make for fun presentations, too. Place in freezer to harden, which shouldn’t take long. After hardening, store in an airtight container.

SOURCE: adapted from Dreyer’s