Marshmallows and spice make hot chocolate so nice… sorry, that was extremely corny.
I have to confess that I’ve given in (and given up). I can’t fight it any longer and will not wait for the cold weather to come to me; if I do, I will sadly be waiting an eternity.
The fall cravings have hit in full force, and it is a terrible thing to be living in Texas when these cravings hit. For cravings of soup and chili, hot chocolate and pumpkin spice lattes, one must be where the air is brisk and leaves are starting their autumnal change. NOT, in a place where you can experience summer, spring, and fall in the span of one week.
This is Texas. This is fall in Texas – not ideal, to say the least. However, since this is where I happen to live, I just have to make due. So, from inside my house, the warm wind blowing outside becomes a cool one, and the golden sunshine, which only makes for warmer temperatures, instead becomes a glow of warmth to cut through the cool wind… like I said, I have to make due. This includes food as well: as I hold my cup of hot cocoa or bowl of soup I have to try and forget the weather outside. As long as I’m inside, it’s fall.
What sort of climate do you live in? Do you live in a place where there’s four seasons, or a place with one season and the other three pop in here in there? Also, do you like your fall on the warm side or more the cool side? (< the latter for me!)
I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but I do know that no matter what, it’s time to celebrate the season with appropriate food and drink. On Monday, I posted a recipe for deliciously easy Apple Hand Pies, and now today we’re going to make marshmallows – spiced marshmallows, that is. (I must note here that in a way, this recipe is a prelude to the one I will be posting this upcoming Monday as we will be sticking with the hot chocolate theme.)
Homemade marshamllows. What I love about these little puffs of joy isn’t just the fact that they are 100 x 100 better than store bought. No, what I love most is the melt factor. You place homemade marshmallows on top of hot cocoa and before long you have the most heavenly layer of marshmallow bliss to accompany your every sip, down to the last drop. #yesplease
For these marshmallows, we are going to take a blend of spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves) to add a touch of fall goodness and to also add an instant pop of spice to your cup of hot cocoa (or any other beverage you would top with marshmallows).
While not one of the quickest things to make (not one of the slowest either, so don’t be scared off!), you won’t regret the time spent, as homemade marshmallows are absolutely worth it. And, unlike other recipes (at least other recipes made for my family), you will have them for hot beverage enjoyment for multiple days – so it’s really all worth it in the end.
The Lowdown: These luscious thick and fluffy marshmallows are flavored with a blend of spices to add instant pop to your cup of hot chocolate!
Oil bottom and sides of a 9x13 in. rectangular metal baking pan; dust bottom and sides with some powdered sugar (make sure it's well coated!).
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl), sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 C. cold water; let stand to soften.
In a 3-qt heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 C. cold water, and salt over low heat (I actually cooked it over medium-low), stirring with a spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. (Note: if you do not have a thermometer, I suggest using the ball test - see note below.) Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture. Stir until gelatin is dissolved.
With a stand (or handheld) mixer, beat mixture on high speed until it is white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes (if using a hand mixer, about 10 minutes)
In a separate medium-sized bowl using clean beaters (I used my handheld with the little whisk attachment), beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks.
Then, beat the whites, vanilla, and spices into sugar/gelatin mixture until just combined, making sure the spices have been thoroughly mixed in.
Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 C. powdered sugar evenly over the top.
Chill marshmallow in refrigerator, uncovered, for about three hours, or until firm and up to one day.
Once firm, run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of the pan, use your fingers to loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board.
Using a large knife, cut into roughly one-inch cubes (or, to be fun, you can cut out small shapes :).
Sift remaining powdered sugar into the baking pan, and roll marshmallows through it, making sure all 6 sides are covered. Shake off the excess sugar and store in an airtight container for up to one week (or plunk some directly into a steaming cup of hot chocolate).
If you do not have a candy thermometer, you can tell if it is at the right temperature by dropping some of the sugar mixture into cold water. If it is at the desired temperature (240° F.), it will form thick threads and when rolled between your fingers, will form a ball. The ball should be soft and easily flattened when pressed.
For cutting the marshmallows, the original recipe notes that you can also use an oiled pizza cutter.
Hey – I’m back! And back with some fall goodies that I can’t wait to share with you in the coming weeks.
I don’t know about you, but fall has always been my absolute favorite season – there’s so much to love!
1. Pumpkin everything 2. The pleasant thoughts of cool weather, crisp air; walks crunching through the color changed leaves… (< Note: these thoughts exist only in my dreams because I live in Texas and, well, it’s still 80+ degrees) 3. The anticipation of Halloween then Thanksgiving 4. Pleasant aromas floating through the house 5. Loads of baking (loads of pounds gained…) 6. Fall baseball!! < That is, until your team gets knocked out of the playoffs early… (not going to go there – too much heartache (I’m looking at you Texas Rangers!)) 7. Warm, golden sunlight 8. The Sate Fair 9. Pumpkin everything… oh wait, I said that already 10. My brother’s apple pie (not to mention my mom gets into pie baking mode – love!)
I think you get the point: me + fall = ☺
Speaking of apple pie though, I have a deliciously easy recipe that you need to add to your fall baking repertoire. I haven’t always been a big fan of apple pie; I loved my brother’s irresistible crust soaked with the juices from the filling, but the filling itself – not so much. However, over the past few years my taste buds have done some major changing and refining and will now accept some foods as likable and also try previously “no thank you” foods. This includes apple pie. So, I’m happy to say that my grandfather’s apple pie ♥ gene passed down to me after all: I now love apple pie – all of it.
(You hear that, Hunter?? That’s code for: it’s time to get baking! I’ll get some granny smith’s at the store this week, k?)< pardon the personal message to my brother there…
Last year I posted a killer recipe for fried apple pies (mmm… I could use one right now) and can’t wait for you to try these as well. What we are going to do is take some puff pastry – I love puff pastry, it’s so versatile – fill it with a luscious apple pie filling, bake, and top with a maple glaze to finish. And there you have it: fall, right in the palms of your hands.
I love this recipe as it is easy (I used prepared puff pastry to make life easier, but feel free to make your own and then send some my way, please?), and delicious – a combination hard to pass up. And the glaze on top provides us with a delicious prelude to the flaky, succulent goodness beneath. I didn’t time it, but from start to finish, you should have these pies from oven to mouth in 1 hour or less – can’t get much better than that.
If you make these pies (please do!) I would love to know how you liked them – so if you could comment, email, or tag me (@sempredolceblog) on social media, I would be a bundle of happiness!
The lowdown: These hand pies begin with a flaky puff pastry crust before biting into the luscious apple pie filling inside; topped with a spiced maple glaze and easy to make, these Apple Hand Pies are a treat hard to pass up!
4 C. apples (about 3 large - granny smith work well), peeled and cut into small cubes
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed (I used 1 (17.3 oz) box of puff pastry sheets)
3/4 C. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
In a medium/large bowl, toss apples with the lemon juice.
In a small bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients.
Spoon mixture over apples and toss gently to coat.
Place apple mixture in a frying pan over medium-high heat, covered, for about 10 minutes; stirring occasionally until juices begin to bubble.
Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400° f. and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Working on a floured surface, roll one puff pastry sheet to about 15 1/2 in. in length and 9 1/2 in. wide.
Divide and cut into 3 (5 in. W) rectangles; then, divide and cut each rectangle in half.
Finally, divide and cut each rectangle half into... 1/2. < all about the 1/2's here!
Set halves aside in pairs of two (6 pairs per sheet). Repeat steps 7-10 with second pastry sheet.
For each pair of puff pastry: on one half, spoon about 1 tbsp. of filling, leaving a little bit of room around the edges. Place second half on top and lightly press around the edges to seal.
Then, take a fork and press around the edges to seal completely. Repeat with remaining pastry pairs - in the end you should have 12 hand pies.
Divide pies between baking sheets, placing about 2 in. apart.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg with a small splash of heavy (or whipping) cream and brush over tops of pies.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. While pies are cooling, make glaze.
For the glaze: sift powdered sugar into small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
When pies are cool enough to handle, pour some glaze onto a dish (I used a medium-sized plate). Dip each pie top into glaze, making sure tops are completely covered. Refill dish with glaze as needed until all pies have been covered.
Let pies sit for a few minutes to allow glaze to set.
The apple filling can also be made and used as a pancake/waffle topper - delicioso!
Filling adapted from Southern Living
Glaze adapted from Epicurious
Between trying to get the house back in order from new flooring in July, to the magazine, I’ve been been a wee bit busy these past few months. And yes, that has also been the extent of my summer – what have you been up to?
These cookies were inspired by a commenter who wanted to know if I had a peanut butter version of these cookies here. I did not, so of course I had to make some! They are not an exact copy in the sense that there is no delicious candy bar sandwiched in the middle, but they are the same cookie base (just with peanut butter added) and feature decadent chunks of chocolate dispersed throughout. So, thank you Frank – I had fun creating these and hope you get to try them!
The lowdown: Chewy peanut butter cookies loaded with chocolate chunks (1/2 pound!!) make for a delightful peanut butter + chocolate snack. They are very easy to make and are a one bowl affair – always a win!
one 3.5 oz package instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 lb. (8.8 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (see note below!)
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using an electric mixer), combine the butter, peanut butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of bowl. Add the flour, pudding mix, and baking soda and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
Stop the mixer and again scrape down sides of bowl. Add chocolate chunks (or chips) and mix briefly with mixer on low speed, just until combined - this could also be done by hand with a spatula.
Using a cookie scoop or spoon, form dough into balls and flatten slightly. How much dough you use depends on how big you want your cookies - the original recipe calls for 1/4 C. dough per cookie. However, I used about between 1-2 tablespoons of dough per cookie - give or take a little - and they baked into a good size.
Place balls of dough onto a plate, container, or tray and chill in fridge for 2 hours (or up to 5 days).
Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place balls of dough onto baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 11 minutes, or until the edges have set and tops are just set - they will probably look underbaked, but do not overbake! The cookies will firm up as they cool.
Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving.
For the chocolate, I absolutely love Trader Joe's 72% Cacoa Dark Chocolate - it's a bittersweet chocolate. I love it because: 1. it's delicious in cookies (uh, chocolate in every bite #win) 2. it's easy to chop (and this is coming from the girl who will always elect to use chocolate chips when possible to avoid chopping chocolate) 3. it comes in 1 pound bars! at a reasonable price!!
(and no, this isn't a sponsored post :D )
Wow. What a last couple of months it has been! I suppose you might be wondering what I have been up to? OK, maybe not, but remember in my last post I mentioned that I was working on a big and exciting project? Now I’m thrilled to be able to tell you more about it.
Since March, my brother and I have been working together to start a magazine devoted to the subject of food photography. I’m super pumped about this. It was a rather quick progression of events, starting with one of my brothers mentioning the idea at lunch one day. I took the idea, played around with it, and then it sort of became a “why not?” situation. It was such a good idea. So after some time on the internet, I approached Landon (my 4th brother and the dude behind most of the photos on here) with a serious proposition to start this magazine thing. Not only did he agree to do it, but to my surprise, he was rather excited about the idea (he’s usually an Eeyore with new ideas).
Long story short, here I am with a deadline to meet and very little time for blogging these days. If you would like to know more about the magazine and its purpose, please visit our website (and PLEASE give us some social media ♥! Though, I have yet to become very active on the social webs yet… one thing at a time, right? ;) – to tide you over until you do though, here is the gist of it: the name of the magazine is Whisk & Camera (“The Art of Food Photography”). It is going to be an online magazine with an option for print-to-order copies published quarterly (3 issues a year). The first issue will be available on August 29th – 9 weeks away!!
We are starting Whisk & Camera primarily because in our current culture that seems to be enamored with food, as well as the photographing, blogging, and Instagramming of food, we truly believe that there is a need for a publication that could help others in their (food) photography endeavors. I know that I, personally, have wished for a magazine geared to food photographers and have been bummed at the lack of one. There are a lot of resources to help people with food photography and photography in general (workshops, countless blog posts, books, etc.), but not one place where a person can find tips and information from multiple food bloggers and photographers… in the same place!
It’s Awesome. So awesome.
So there you have it. I do hope you will visit the website (of which I put a lot of time and effort into… ;P) and I hope even more that you will join us come August!
OK, item No.1 on the list is done, now onto item No.2: these Espresso S’more Bars. These bars have been floating around in my mind for quite some time now.
They are: easy, quick (excluding cooling and chill time, but even then…), tasty, tasty, TASTY! And the oven is hardly needed – 5 minutes of baking time, that’s all. No advanced skills needed for this one, folks. They are a super summer (or any time) treat! I mean, when is graham crackers + ganache + espresso + marshmallowy meringue ever a bad idea? Like, never.
A couple of things to note: I like espresso in my desserts and really liked the idea of espresso combined with s’mores, but, if this combination doesn’t send you delicious thoughts, cut out the coffee granules – no biggie. Secondly, the meringue is technically a Swiss meringue which to me, tastes like marshmallow. I believe I slightly prefer the texture of the Swiss than that of that of a marshmallow meringue, but if you would rather use marshmallow then I recommend this recipe here.
The lowdown: This recipe provides all the delights of s’mores in bar form. A thick graham cracker crust is topped with a lush layer of espresso ganache and then finished with a toasty Swiss meringue. Easy to put together and super delicious, these Espresso S’more Bars will be sure to make your summer extra special!
Filling9 oz (about 1 ½ C.) chocolate, chopped *see note below!!
1 C. heavy cream
1 tbsp. coffee granules (espresso powder would probably work as well)
Meringue3 egg whites
¾ C. granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 325° f. Line a 8x8 square baking dish with foil or parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir to combine.
Press mixture evenly in pan (I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup for even spreading). Bake for 5 minutes, or until crust is firm.
Place pan on a cooling rack and let crust cool completely.
While crust is cooling, make ganache.
For the ganachePlace chopped chocolate and espresso powder in a medium-sized bowl.
Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan until almost simmering. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes.
Whisk until completely smooth. Cover bowl (I used a kitchen towel) and let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour, stirring with a rubber spatula every 15 minutes.
Pour ganache over crust, cover pan and transfer to fridge. Chill for 1 hour, or until ganache is firm.
Make the meringueIn the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites and sugar. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure bowl does not touch water).
Whisk until mixture reaches a temperature of 160° f. or until sugar is completely dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch, about 3-5 minutes.
Transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick, glossy, and marshmallow-like in texture – about 5 minutes.
To finishRemove pan from fridge. Pull bars out from pan and carefully slide off of foil and onto desired serving platter. Spread meringue evenly over top of bars. Using a kitchen torch, toast meringue to desired toastiness – serve immediately or return to fridge until ready to serve.
Leftover bars (what are those?) can be stored in fridge.
For the ganache, I used a combination of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate (1 C. chopped bittersweet and 1/2 C. chopped - or chips - semisweet). I highly recommend this combination but you can use whatever type of chocolate you desire! :) For my bittersweet chocolate, I used Trader Joe's 72% cacao dark chocolate - super yummy (super yummy in cookies too)!
For measuring purposes, my measuring cup was a heaping 1 1/2 cups of chocolate, so don't worry too much getting a perfectly even measure.