Prize Fudge

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I am not sure what prize this fudge won.  I don’t even know the origins of this recipe.  I just swiped it from Grandmas recipe box one day.  Maybe it was a blue ribbon from the local fair?  I have no clue.  Maybe it’s because the fudge is the prize.  I’m going with that.  This fudge is nice and creamy, and come together in a snap.  Its a lighter chocolate fudge, but it is very rich.  One or two pieces is enough to require a cup of coffee, or a glass of milk.

Start by boiling your sugar, evaporated milk, and a whole cup of butter, bringing it to soft ball stage.

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Add in the vanilla, marshmallow cream, and chocolate chips (and nuts if you want!), and pour into a 9 x 9 square pan.

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See this clever little trick?  It makes it really easy to lift the cold fudge out of the pan. Just cut two strips of parchment as wide as the pan, and twice as long, laying each one across each other, and pressing down into the corners.  It really helps to butter the pan, that way it holds down the parchment for you, and makes it even easier to release once it is chilled.

Remove the chilled fudge from the pan, and cut into 1-inch squares.  It really is that easy.

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Share with your friends.  Or don’t share.  Save it all for yourself if you want.

Prize Fudge
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Candy
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Chocolatey rich fudge. Easy to make.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 12oz. can evaporated milk (not the sweetened condensed kind)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Butter
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 pint jar Marshmallow cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Cup chopped walnuts, optional.
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Boil over medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 236° F (soft ball stage), stirring often to keep from burning.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla, chocolate chips, and marshmallow cream, and nuts (if using).
  4. Mix until chocolate is melted, and everything is well combined.
  5. Pour into buttered pan. A nice trick is to line the pan with a sling made from 2 rectangular sheets of parchment, making it easy to remove from the pan later.
  6. Let cool until firm.
  7. Remove from pan, and cut into 1-inch squares. Store in airtight container.

Icebox Cookies

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Icebox cookies.  Yes, from the ice box.  No they aren’t cold, and No they are not no-bake.  They come out of the refrigerator, and slice them and pop into the oven.  I can not even think about these cookies without thinking of Aunt Marie.  She gave this recipe to my Grandma, who made them every year at Christmas.  It’s another one of those recipes that just say “CHRISTMAS IS HERE!”  They are a shortbread type cookie, nice and crisp, and lightly spiced with cinnamon, and flavored with pecans.  I suppose you could leave the nuts out, but what would be the point?  They totally turn this cookie into something truly amazing.  The only part I don’t like about this recipe, is the wait.  They need to chill.  And by chill, I mean almost ice cold.  But it is totally worth the wait.

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Just cream your shortening, sugar and eggs,

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mix in the flour and nuts,

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split the dough in half,

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wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and chill for 3-4 hours.  Go clean your house (and mine too while your at it.  I’m too busy waiting for the cookies to chill).

Then slice them into pieces and bake.

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Not too thick, not too thin!

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Let them cool.  It doesn’t take that long.  Oh alright, just one though!

They make really great gifts too!

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Now go make some!

Icebox Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 48
 
A crunchy, cinnamon cookie with pecans. Perfect for that Christmas party dessert tray. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon. Stir in chopped pecans.
  2. With electric mixer, cream shortening. Add brown and granulated sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, mix until well combined.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture, mixing until well combined. Add second half and beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
  5. Divide dough in half. Form each half into a log and wrap each in parchment or plastic wrap.
  6. Refrigerate 3-4 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 400° F
  8. Remove logs from refrigerator and unwrap. Slice each into ¼ inch slices.
  9. Bake at 400° F for 10-12 minutes or until golden on edges.
  10. Let cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

Fairy Gingerbread, A Blast From the Past

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Do you watch too many cooking shows?  I know a lot of them now days are not the standard “stand and stir” type shows anymore.  Most of them are competition shows, and frankly, they bore me.  Maybe I’m stuck in the past, but I really do miss the days of the old stand and stir.  The type where the host tells you what they will make, and then show you how to actually make it, technique and all, including the actual recipe.  These modern shows just tell you to add a bit of this, or a bit of that, or only give a few of the measurements, leaving you to just buy their cookbook, or hunt down their specific website to find the recipes (have you ever tried to search that food channels website?  I mean, yeah, its a great website, but trying to find a specific recipe from a certain show can be difficult at times.  Time most of us don’t have to spare.).

One exception is Americas Test Kitchen TV program, as well as Cooks Country, both brought to PBS by the folks at Cooks Illustrated Magazine.  They are a real working test kitchen, and they really do try to find ways to either fix, update, or overhaul a recipe.  These are not fancy recipes for the most part, but recipes that are intended for the average home cook.  While the show is gearing up for its next season, there have been quite a few reruns of the past season running, and a couple weeks ago they made this recipe on Cooks Country called Fairy Gingerbread.  This is not what you typically think of as Gingerbread.  In my humble opinion, ITS BETTER!!!

This is not a typical cookie either, but is quite literally wafer thin, crisp and full of actual ginger flavor.  Maybe its because the recipe calls for toasted ground ginger, as well as fresh ginger, and has no other spices to hide behind.  Its out and proud ginger that takes a bite out of you, instead of the other way around.  And its really easy to make.  it goes together in 5 minutes, and bakes for less than 15 minutes.  Seriously, no really, you could have some really tasty and crisp Christmas treats in half an hour.

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Honest, that’s the entire ingredient list right there.

Have you ever toasted your ground spices?  I never used to, but after this, I think I will start.  You toast the ground ginger in a dry skillet for about a minute, just until you can really start to smell it.  Then you grate your fresh ginger (I used a micro-plane type grater to do this, it gets it really fine, and you don’t get all of those fibers from the ginger in your cookie.  That wouldn’t be good eats (wrong show!) very good at all.

Just cream your butter and sugar, add the spices and vanilla, then gradually mix in the flour and milk.  See, I told you it was 5 minutes to put together.

Then you spread it really thinly on the back of two baking sheets lined with parchment.

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See how thin that is?  it almost has a hole in it!

Once you bake them, you pull them out and score them with a knife, into cracker shapes (that means squares or rectangles.  Ain’t I fancy?). Then you let them cool for 15-20 minutes.  That’s it.  Almost as easy as pie chocolate chips (pie isn’t easy!).

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Then you pull them off the parchment paper.  They will break apart by themselves.  Then Eat them.  All.  Don’t share.

Fairy Gingerbread, A Blast From the Past
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36
 
A light, Crisp, Wafer thin cookie that is Intensely flavored with fresh and ground ginger. Recipe from Cooks Country, Cooks Illustrated Magazine.
Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 9 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. grated fresh ginger (a micro-plane, or rasp style grater works best)
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup whole milk, room temperature
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325° and prepare 2 cookie sheets. Spray the back of the cookie sheets with cooking spray, and cover with a sheet of parchment paper (you may have to trim to fit)
  2. Heat the ground ginger in a small, DRY skillet over medium heat, until fragrant. About 1 minute.
  3. Combine flour, toasted ground ginger, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Using a stand mixer (you can use a hand mixer. It works just fine), cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed.
  5. Add fresh ginger and vanilla. Mix until incorporated, about 30 minutes.
  6. Reduce speed to low, and add ⅓ of the flour mixture. once incorporated, add half the milk. Once incorporated, add half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the last of the milk, followed by the last of the flour mixture, making sure ingredients are incorporated before adding the next addition.
  7. The batter is ready to spread. Using an offset spatula, spread half (about ¾ cup) of the batter on one of the prepared cookie sheet. Don't worry that it looks like the batter is barely covering the parchment, its supposed to be a wafer thin cookie. Repeat with the second half of the batter.
  8. Bake at 325° F until a deep golden brown, 16-20 minutes, making sure to rotate each pan, and switch racks (upper sheet to lower rack, lower sheet to upper rack) to ensure even baking.
  9. once deep golden brown, remove one sheet from the oven and score with a sharp knife into squares, set the pan aside and repeat with the second sheet. Allow to cool to room temperature (10-20 minutes)
  10. Once cooled, peel away from the parchment. Cookies should break apart as you do. If they don't, you can re-score them with the back of a paring knife and they will come right apart.

Peanut Brittle: A Holiday Tradition

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Who doesn’t love peanut brittle?  I know, everyone likes it, at least a little.  This is yet another family tradition for the holidays.

I remember helping my Mom and Grandma make peanut brittle when I was a kid:  Pounding trays of molten candy on counter tops for the thinnest possible candy, trying to pick a pick a piece off before it cooled and burning my fingers.   Disfigurement  Aloe Vera, cut right from the plant in the back yard to soothe the burns.  Finally eating the crunchy, crackly peanutty candy as fast as I could, until my jaws stuck shut.  Ahhh…youth.

This year is the first year that I have been completely on my own in the candy making department.   With Mom across country, and Grandma several hours away, I get to do it all.  Well, not all.  It’s not like I had to harvest and roast the peanuts.  But good luck finding them 3 days before Christmas.

Peanut Brittle is relatively simple and straightforward.  All you need is a candy thermometer, a nice heavy pot (I used a 6 quart stock pot), and patience.  Oh….that’s your problem too, eh?  Well, together we will do our best to be patient, and not stick our fingers in the boiling magma and sugar coated napalm and withdraw a nub where the finger once was.  So lets get to work!

Bring your sugar and some other stuff to a boil, cooking away until it gets to the right temperature.

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Once your Sugar reaches 335-340°F, Turn off the heat, add some baking soda and peanuts, and watch your bubbling mass turn into a swelling mass of caramel colored foam!

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Immediately pour it out onto a buttered baking sheet, and spread it out to your desired thickness.  Work fast, once out of the pot it turns into a rock really fast.  Then let it cool.

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Oh, you didn’t believe me, did you?  Here, let me cut you a piece of Aloe Vera for that nub you have for a finger.

Seriously, Keep those little hands out of this!

and, Voila! Peanut Brittle!

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You know you want some. Go ahead, take a piece. Its Christmas time, no one cares about your figure right now.  Just one small piece?  for me?

Peanut Brittle: A Holiday Tradition
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Candy
 
Crunchy, sweet candy with peanuts
Ingredients
  • ½ cup water
  • 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup light corn syrup (not hfcs)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter (plus more to butter your baking sheet)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, unsalted
Instructions
  1. Butter a baking sheet lightly, and set aside.
  2. In a deep, wide pot, melt butter over medium heat, then add the sugar, water and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar.
  3. Once boiling, clip your candy thermometer onto the pot, making sure the thermometer is nut touching the bottom, and continue to boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  4. When thermometer reads 335-340°F, remove from heat.
  5. Immediately add vanilla, and baking soda, stirring quickly.
  6. While the baking soda is foaming up, Sprinkle in the peanuts, stirring to mix well.
  7. Immediately pour out onto buttered baking sheet and spread to desired thickness, or with mitted hands, pound the baking sheet on the counter to spread the hot candy.
  8. Allow to cool to room Temperature, then break with a mallet, or by hand.

Date Pinwheel Cookies for Christmas

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Christmas has completely gotten out of control this year.  So many projects I have wanted to do, but time has not allowed.  But before Christmas totally gets away from me, I just had to make these delightful cookies.  Date Pinwheels have been a tradition in my family for years and years, though I do not know where the recipe originally came from, I got it from my grandma, who has made them for who knows how long.  There are a lot of traditions we have around Christmas, including home made peanut brittle (That’s next post, I promise!), and fudge.  Even if I couldn’t have any of the others, I could not stand it if one more Christmas went by without eating some of these!   I had never made them before, I just did the eating, but it was time to put on the big boy pants and get cracking, Grandma now lives a few hundred miles away, so there’s no sneaking over to her house to sneak a few for later.  These cookies have a nice gooey date-walnut filling, and a chewy, almost crisp brown sugar dough.  I couldn’t believe how easy they actually were to make, so much so, that I think you need to go make some.  Now!

The hardest part of the whole thing was making the filling (okay, maybe rolling out the dough…don’t judge me!), which is chopped up dates, walnuts, sugar and water, and simmered until the dates get nice and soft.

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Okay, you caught me.  I only tasted it for quality purposes.  Honest.

Then roll out your dough, and smear it down with your filling, tasting for quality purposes if you need to.  No one will tell.  What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen (as long as you are alone!)

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Then roll the whole thing up like a big old jelly roll, and wrap it in some plastic and refrigerate.  Crud, you busted me again!  That’s totally the hardest part, waiting for them to chill.

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A nice little trick there, roll the dough out on parchment paper, and use that to help you roll nice and tight!

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Once your rolls are all nice and cold, slice them up and bake them!

I had to make two batches of these, because, well, I had planned to use them as part of my yearly gift baskets for neighbors and friends, but, well, I ate some.  Then I got greedy and hoarded the whole batch.  But, now that I have my fix, I can surely share the second batch, right?  Yeah.  Sure. I’ll share…the recipe:

Date Pinwheel Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36
 
A Chewy cookie, filled with dates and walnuts.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • for filling:
  • 16oz dried dates, chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Cream butter, add beaten eggs and beat until well combined.
  2. Sift flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together. Add to butter and eggs.
  3. Mix until well combined.
  4. Divide dough into two equal pieces, wrapping each in plastic wrap or parchment, forming into a flat square (this will help when rolling out).
  5. Chill dough for at least one hour.
  6. Make the Date Nut filling while the dough chills.
  7. Combine chopped dates, walnuts, water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  8. Bring to a simmer, stirring to keep from burning. When the dates have become very soft and start to turn to mush, remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.
  9. Assemble your cookies:
  10. Roll out your first square of chilled dough, either on a lightly floured surface, or on parchment paper. The parchment could come in handy to help you roll up your pinwheels, but it is not a must. Roll out the dough in a rectangle (or as close as you can to one) measuring about 14 inches long, and 8 or 9 inches tall.
  11. Spread half the Date Nut filling on top of the dough, in a nice even layer, leaving about a half-inch on all sides.
  12. Roll the dough up, like a jelly roll. Roll from the long edge, beginning by folding the half inch edge over the filling, and then evenly and tightly rolling all the way up.
  13. Once rolled up, place the seam on the bottom, and wrap in parchment paper, or plastic wrap.
  14. Repeat with your second square of dough.
  15. Chill for at least one hour, up to 3 or 4 days.
  16. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  17. Remove your rolls from the refrigerator, and unwrap, leaving the seam on the bottom. Take a moment to shape if you want your cookies to come out perfectly round.
  18. Slice rolls in ¼" to ⅜" Slices, yielding 18 to 20 cookies per roll.
  19. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat, approximately 9-10 per sheet.
  20. Bake at 350° F for approx 20 minutes, or until edges are just turning golden. If baking two sheets at once, make sure to rotate halfway through for even baking.