Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Almond Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I am well aware that I have 80 cookie recipes on my blog--all excellent. But I think I have a New Favorite Cookie! I saw a recipe for an almond chocolate cookie in the new Taste of Home Fall Baking magazine. I was sure it would be yummy as it had so many fun flavors. I had just purchased some Almond Flavoring from Penzeys. I have been ordering spices from Penzeys for several years, they are fresh and delicious. When a Penzey's store opened just 10 miles from home I was thrilled. Girls weekend included a field trip to Penzeys. I entered the store and felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Heaven will smell like a Penzeys store I am sure.
Anyway--back to these amazing cookies. Chocolate, white chocolate, chopped almonds, almond flavoring--these had to be excellent. I'm sure the recipe in the magazine is good, but I made it better. What goes perfect with almonds and chocolate? Dried cherries do. They added the perfect contrast of sweet/sour. Please add this to your holiday cookie platter.

Almond Chocolate Cherry Cookies (aka favorite cookie)
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar (150 grams--I always weigh brown sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract--use Penzeys
2 cups flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
3/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
Cream butter and sugars together till light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extract. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture, don't over mix. Stir in chocolate, nuts and cherries.
Using a medium size scoop drop dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes. Cool on racks. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
Printable Recipe
Recipe adapted from a recipe in Taste of Home Fall Baking--this is a great magazine.  My magazine is full of sticky notes!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Caramel Apples

I'm going to let Jill talk about Caramel Apples--she is the authority! I've made a few with success but Jill has made hundreds. She often makes them for craft fairs in her area. They are a coveted item, ladies wait in line for them, yes they are that good. So here is what Jill has to say:


Well hello! My mom is right, I have made a several {hundred!} caramel apples in my day.  I began making 4-5  for our craft shows, but those few quickly turned into 10, which turned into 25, and sometimes up to 40 per show! I've retired from the craft show scene, and run Jill's Sweet Shoppe on Facebook. Caramel apples are a lot of fun to make and can be a great gift for teachers, neighbors, or yourself!

So, let's get started! First, let's talk about what you'll need. When making caramel apples, it's important to have all your ingredients ready to go.  Once you begin the process, you won't be able to stop in the middle to chop nuts or crush Oreo's!

You will need:
*Apples - I prefer Granny Smith.  They provide the tart flavor that you need to counteract the sweetness of the caramel and other toppings.

*Caramel - If you are making more than 5-10 apples you will want to get a 5 pound brick of Peter's will cost you around $20, but the quality is great and it will store for several months in your pantry. You can also just buy the individually wrapped caramels and trick your kiddos into a race to unwrap them.

* Chocolate for drizzling - Use good quality dipping chocolate for this. Ghirardelli and Guittard make great apeels that melt beautifully.  You can find them here, or your local Winco will have them in their bulk food section.  DON'T (yes, I just capitalized that) use Wilton melts from the craft store. Their waxy texture and overly sweet taste will most likely ruin your apple and make it not worth eating. Ok I'm teasing, but seriously folks, don't use them if you can avoid it...the taste is nothing like Guittard!

*Toppings - crushed Oreo's, crushed peanuts, mini M&M's, cinnamon sugar, etc

*Popsicle or craft sticks. Sticks with pointed ends (my preference) are typically found in the produce section of the grocery store.

Supplies are gathered - time to dip some apples!

1. First, wash and dry your apples then chill them in the fridge for 15 minutes. Chilling will help the caramel set faster so you don't have a gooey caramel puddle at the bottom of your apple, although I doubt anyone would complain! You'll also want to prep for the apples by laying out parchment paper, or tin foil coated with a light layer of Pam cooking spay.

2. Insert sticks in the top of the apple. You'll want to insert them about halfway down the core, being careful not to force the stick through the other end of your apple.

3. Melt your caramel. The ideal dipping temperature is 160 degrees, and there are several good methods you can use depending on how many apples you're making. The first method (and my preference) is to use a crock pot. Throw a brick of caramel in there on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Be sure to stir the caramel gently, but or  it will produce air bubbles in your finished product. Another way to melt your caramel is to use the microwave to heat and stir in 1 minute increments until you've reached your desired temperature and consistency.

I prefer the crock pot because it continues to keep your caramel warm while dipping...if you use the microwave, you'll have a much smaller dipping window to work with. As a rule of thumb, if I am making more than 5 apples, I'll use the crock pot. If I'm just making a few, I'll use the microwave.

4. Dip the apples! Tilt the apple on its side while holding the stick and dip in the caramel, rolling the apples to coat all the sides. After rolling the apple in the caramel, turn it back upright and let the caramel drip off.  When the it stops dripping, take a spoon and run it along the bottom of the apple to scrape off the excess.

5. Next comes the fun part: "Accessorizing" your apple! you can dip, drizzle, and roll your chosen toppings.  If you are going to roll your apple in nuts, M&M's or crushed Oreos, make sure you do it while the caramel is still warm.

If you are drizzling chocolate, I find the best method is to hold the apple over the sink, and use a spoon (for a thicker drizzle) or fork (for a fine drizzle). This will take a little practice...if it doesn't look that great, you can just say you were going for the "rustic" look. People like rustic, right? I promise, no one will complain.  This is where having good chocolate really pays off.  If you have decided to use the Wilton Melts, your drizzle will not be nearly as fluid and beautiful. trust me.

6. You made it! Now let your apples set then package them up with some cellophane, ribbon, and tags. Remember, presentation is everything. A not-so-perfect apple can easily be revived with pretty ribbon - trust me!

A final note: Apples best eaten within 24 hours, but can be kept at room temperature for a couple of days. Don't allow them to get too cold or the apple will "sweat" and your caramel will sluff off and produce watery mess at the bottom of your packaging.

Thanks for letting me visit, mama! If you fabulous readers have any questions, visit Jill's Sweet Shoppe and send me a message!