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Pecan Toffee Fudge and some sad/happy news


Usually I don’t include my daily life in food posts, but I wanted to honor sister June, whose funeral I’ll be attending this morning. June was 95 years old and it was her time. She spent her last night on Earth in good spirits with her family in Christ at our weekly Bible study, then she passed gently in her sleep. It is such a joy to think of her with her heavenly family now, that I have not shed more than a few tears, but I’m sure they will come in abundance as we remember her life here and how she touched each of us. It was a privilege to know this dear & faithful lady, who I knew only to miss a handful of church services due to health concerns. She was such a treasure and such a blessing to everyone who knew her–she had a great sense of humor and some really great stories!

I thought I would share this video of June from our preacher’s holiday party last year, in which she got quite the hilarious white elephant gift from Dennis. (That’s her son, Mike, helping her open it, and I would appreciate your prayers for him during this time of mourning. He never married and lived with her all these years, so this will be hardest for him.)

OK, let’s talk fudge.  (Sorry, terrible segue, but how do you segue from a funeral announcement to fudge???  Maybe that’s why I don’t talk about my personal life in these posts-LOL!)  I’m featuring only simple holiday recipes this week, since Christmas is less than a week away and you might need a little help with last-minute goodies ideas.  This one certainly fits the bill!  It doesn’t involve cooking or a candy thermometer, just beating some ingredients together and voilà!  Absolutely perfect, delicious, soft fudge, studded with toffee and pecans.  Fantastico!

Pecan Toffee Fudge

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 teaspoon butter
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Dash salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup English toffee bits

Line an 8 or 9-in. square pan with foil and grease the foil with butter; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar. Beat in the melted chocolate, extract and salt until smooth. Stir in pecans and toffee bits. Spread into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until firm. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: 2-1/2 pounds.

Recipe source: slightly tweaked from Taste of Home

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Cookie Brittle


All right, it’s the last day of cookie week!  Here’s another great recipe from Marina, and as with all her recipes, this one is a winner.  (Literally, the woman has hundreds of ribbons for her baking!)  These cookies are exactly what the title suggests.  Cookie brittle is the perfect cross of cookie and brittle, is super crunchy, buttery, studded with toffee, and garnished with chocolate.  I bet these are great with the almonds, but I made mine without.  These are perfect for gifts!

Cookie Brittle

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 (7.8 oz) packages toffee candy bars, chopped fine
½ cup almonds, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter, vanilla and salt in medium bowl and beat with electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour, sugar, chopped toffee candy, and almonds if desired. Blend well. Press mixture into 15 x 11 inch cookie sheet with sides. Cover with waxed paper and flatten with rolling pin to edge of pan. Discard paper. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. While still hot, cut into diamonds or squares. Cool completely. Drizzle with chocolate if desired.

Recipe source: Marina C.

THE Mocha Crunch Cake


Although I have made this recipe my own, I must give credit where it is due.  Early in my cake-making days, I purchased Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible and used recipes out of it to make the first stages of this cake.  I’ve continually changed and evolved the recipe since then, and while I always ultimately preferred to use a Betty Crocker devil’s food cake mix rather than bake the cake from scratch, I have now found THE chocolate cake recipe that I actually prefer over the mix, and I have Mel of My Kitchen Cafe to thank for that.

Let’s talk about the current stage of this cake.  The cake itself is light, moist, deeply chocolatey.  An excellent crumb.  Really, the best texture I’ve ever gotten from a chocolate cake recipe, except for this one.  It’s perfect.  The cake is enveloped in a  buttercream that is deceptively light and almost mousse-like with a great balance of sweet coffee and chocolate flavor.  The flavor combined with the velvety smooth texture makes it so good that I have been known to scoop the leftover frosting into a bowl and eat it straight.  I chose to press chopped toffee into the sides of the cake because, to me, the flavor of toffee has always been a perfect compliment to chocolate and coffee, and it adds a nice contrast of texture to the bite.  Finally, I eventually began smothering the whole finished cake in ganache to make it more visually appealing and to intensify the chocolate flavor.  It is an immensely pleasurable treat that can be dangerous because it doesn’t feel fattening when it’s in your mouth and it’s easy to overindulge because it is so light.  Do not be decieved!  My thighs are a testament to the immense caloric level of each bite.

This cake is time consuming to prepare, but very much worth the effort, especially if you are making it for a birthday.  And fear not that the little ones won’t enjoy it.  My nephew has been devouring it since he was old enough to be allowed chocolate.  And one of the ladies present at a birthday party where it was served told me that her daughter hates chocolate and she ate an enormous piece all by herself.  I had to laugh, because that little girl is not the only one who has enjoyed the cake despite their aversions to aspects of it.

My Dad is a dessert hater.  Honestly, I don’t know how he could have spawned me, the Dessert Queen, but it doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t have a sweet tooth.  But he loves this cake.  My youngest sister is a frosting hater.  She scrapes it off the cake.  When I make this one she gets excited if I put extra frosting in the middle.  And she licks the plate clean, frosting and all.  My middle sister is a cake hater, and really just a hater of all things not raw and rich in antioxidants.  But she scarfs this cake every time I make it and it is the only cake she will let me make for her birthday.  My husband?  A coffee hater.  An intense coffee hater.  And yet he perks up on the rare occasion I make a morning cup of Joe, hoping the smell means I’m making this cake.  My Mom likes everything I make, but this is her favorite cake and also the one she prefers on her birthday.  And not to toot my own horn or anything, but Michael Jackson left instructions in his will to be buried with three of these cakes.  Or at least, I think he would have if he’d ever tried one. :)

A friend recently told me that this cake would be one of the only things she thought she would miss in heaven.  Of course she said it to be funny since I doubt we’ll miss anything in heaven, but if were possible to miss something…I think I would miss it too.

THE Mocha Crunch Cake

Printable recipe

Printable recipe with picture

Cake
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons salt

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups warm water
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Mocha Buttercream

¼ cup Kahlua
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
10 oz semisweet chocolate
6 large egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup corn syrup

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter

Ganache
4 oz semisweet chocolate
½ cup heavy cream

Additional

1-1  ½ cups toffee bits
2 toffee candy bars (such as Heath)

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, making sure the baking rack is in the middle of the oven. Prepare two 9” round cake pans by cutting out a piece of parchment or wax paper to line the bottom of them. Grease the pans, place the parchment or wax paper in the bottoms and lightly grease again. Dust the pans with flour (or cocoa powder if you don’t want the white dusting on the finished cakes). Set the pans aside.

Sift together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, yolk, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Mix on low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes for about 32-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Do not overbake! Remove the pans from the oven and set the pans on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Gently run a thin knife around the edges of the pans and unmold the cakes, removing the parchment paper liners from the bottom of the cakes. Let them cool completely, top sides ups, on a wire rack.  Trim the tops of the cake layers with a long serrated knife to make them level.

Make the buttercream: Put Kahlua in a microwave safe dish and heat until boiling.  Remove and add instant coffee.  Mixture will immediately boil up high and once it goes back down, gently stir it until the coffee is dissolved.  Set aside to come to room temperature.  Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe dish and heat for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue heating in 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is almost melted.  Stir and allow the residual heat to melt it completely.  Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks until light and mixer blades make tracks in them.  Spray a 1-cup glass measure with cooking spray and set beside the stove.  Combine sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full rolling boil.  Immediately remove from heat and pour into the prepared measuring cup to stop the cooking.  While mixer is running, pour the syrup in a steady stream into the egg yolks, careful not to pour it onto the beaters.  Continue beating until mixture is room temperature.  Beat the butter in a small bowl until fluffy, then begin adding it to the egg mixture a tablespoon or two at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition.  Once the chocolate is cooled, turn the mixer back on and add the chocolate to the buttercream, beating until smooth.  Add the cooled Kahlua mixture and beat until uniform & smooth.

Make the ganache: Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave safe dish and heat for a minute; stir.  Continue heating in 15-30 second intervals until the chocolate emulsifies and the mixture is shiny, dark, uniform, and smooth.  Allow to come to room temperature.

Assemble: Place one cake layer on plate and spread about 1 cup of mocha buttercream over the top.  Put second cake layer on top and frost the top and sides with the remaining buttercream.  Take handfuls of toffee bits and press them into the sides of the cake.  Chop the candy bars into four pieces each and place with a pointed side up around the edge of the cake.  Slowly pour the cooled ganache over the top of the cake and use a spatula to spread to the edges so that it will ooze out between the candy bars and down the sides a little.  Sprinkle some toffee bits in the middle of the cake.  Serve at room temperature.

Veronica’s notes: As many people have had trouble with the cake batter overflowing the pans during baking, I recommend you do what I did and only fill your pans 1/2-2/3 full and use the extra batter for cupcakes.

Recipe by Veronica Miller, with help from this recipe, and The Cake Bible.

And now, a photographic timeline to show the evolution of the Mocha Crunch Cake.

1st stage: three layers of (from scratch) devil’s food cake with mocha frosting and chocolate curls.

https://i1.wp.com/a4.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/95/f9cd0f2d1d22fe34c95e7de7b9c8609b/l.jpg

Stage 2: same as stage 1, except with toffee on the sides.

https://i0.wp.com/a1.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/38/ac907196cb9ff40fb9a696bab3be4fca/l.jpg

Stage 3: using a cake mix and with much shorter layers to make the frosting to cake ratio more equal, as my sister likes it.  Mom wasn’t complaining! (On a side note, this is before I learned how to pipe roses and I was holding the tip upside down so the petals are backwards, which makes them look too fluffy–LOL!)

https://i2.wp.com/a1.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/42/7494dfe1bcacea15227f7e59dd603eb1/l.jpg

https://i1.wp.com/a3.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/8/32c4e9c0f2c65d00f1bc4cc169013511/l.jpg

https://i0.wp.com/a3.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/54/3394fe553e4f8a1b0c76b7d1c1efaec8/l.jpg

Stage 4: toffee removed and baked in a sheet pan to turn into a baby shower cake.

https://i1.wp.com/a1.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/112/aa921b50709e40e7a982e13f6bf80c84/l.jpg

Stage 5: a ganache drizzle is added.

https://i1.wp.com/a2.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/10/96fffba6177c4c18b674f57653b3be75/l.jpg

Stage 6: no more pussyfooting around.  I slathered on a whole cup of ganache and embellished with candy bars!

And everyone rejoiced.  The end.

Dulce de Leche Bars


I came up with this recipe for the “mix it up” contest at the fair.  You could either use a mix for something it wasn’t intended for or make a cake with a mix and put a twist on it.  I went for the former and used a cake mix for the base of these indulgent treats.  Although they didn’t place, the judges wrote “Very good–wonderful flavor!” in the notes on my eval sheet and everyone I’ve served them to agrees.  My favorite thing about them is that you can whip them up and have them in the oven in less than 10 minutes.  Perfect for us busy people!

https://i1.wp.com/a3.ec-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/90/1e0c70be8b044c62bd0bd4eb6570cb56/l.jpg

Dulce de Leche Bars

1 (18.25 oz) Golden Butter Recipe cake mix
1 egg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 (13.4 oz) can Nestle Dulce de Leche (or 1 cup homemade)
1 cup pecan pieces
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
1cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup Heath candy baking bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg & butter.  Beat on medium speed until well mixed.  Shape the dough into a ball and, using your hands, press it out into the bottom of the prepared pan until it is in an even layer & reaches the edges.

Spread the dulce de leche over the cake mix layer, all the way to the edges.  Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the top, layering half of each and then repeating, and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and give it a few hard taps against a heat resistant surface to settle any puffiness.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Nutty Toffee Popcorn

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Although I have an overabundance of saved recipes that I have yet to try, I still couldn’t resist purchasing Taste of Home’s “Bake Sale 2009” magazine when I spotted it on the shelf at the grocery store.  I want to make everything in the book (it doesn’t hurt that pictures accompany each recipe!), but this is the first thing I’ve tried.

It is really hard for me to stick to a recipe exactly, and this one is no exception.  Come on, a recipe with toffee in the title and none in the recipe?  That had to be fixed!  So here’s my version.

Nutty Toffee Popcorn

Adapted from Glenna Hale’s recipe in Taste of Home’s Bake Sale 2009

½ cup popcorn kernels
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup whole almonds (I used roasted & salted)
1 c butter
2 c packed brown sugar
½ c light corn syrup
½ t cream of tartar
½ t baking soda
½ t rum extract
½  cup toffee bits (like Heath baking bits)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pop kernels (I use an air popper) and place in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the nuts over the top of the popped popcorn and set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup and cream of tartar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, without stirring, for five minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, you can clamp it to the side of the and wait until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F).  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda & rum extract until mixture is light and foamy.  Immediately pour over the popcorn mixture & stir to coat well.  Bake in a large roaster pan or two jelly roll pans for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  The last time you stir, when only 15 minutes remain, sprinkle the toffee over the top, stir and return to the oven. When it has baked an hour, lay sheets of waxed paper on the counter and spread the popcorn over it to dry, breaking up the pieces with a spoon as you spread it out. Once it has cooled, store in an airtight container.  I usually just put mine into gallon-sized Ziploc bags.  In this case, I only needed one b/c only half the popcorn survived to the packaging step!

Butterscotch-Toffee Chocolate Cake

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Kim, Krista, & Pillsbury inspired this recipe.  Kim posted a “Butterfinger Cake” recipe on her MySpace blogrecently, which reminded me of the cake my friend, Krista, made for her birthday last year (she used toffee instead, along with a different kind of cake).  Then I found a recipe on the side of my German Chocolate Cake mix that was basically Kim’s Butterfinger cake but with caramel instead of butterscotch.  I figured all these similar recipes was a sign that meant I was to make the cake and FAST.  So I did.

And it was good.

I will post the recipe I made up, then put the Pillsbury recipe below it since that one is probably better.  Guess it depends on what kind of flavors you prefer!  If you love butterscotch, you will love this cake.

Butterscotch-Toffee Chocolate Cake

1 German Chocolate cake mix (I used Pillsbury)
1 (20-oz) bottle butterscotch ice cream syrup (I used Smuckers)
1 8-oz container Cool Whip
1/2-3/4 of a bag Heath bits (or you can chop up several candy bars)
Chocolate ganache or chocolate fudge ice cream topping to drizzle on top
Reserve ½ cup of butterscotch syrup & set aside.

Prepare cake according to package directions in a 13×9 pan (my picture shows a small pan b/c I chose to make two small cakes so I could give one away).  Squirt 1/2 cup of the butterscotch syrup out and set aside.  As soon as the cake’s out of the oven, poke it all over with a fork and squirt what remains of the bottle of butterscotch syrup over the top, spreading with a spatula so it can absorb while the cake cools.

Fold the ½ cup reserved syrup into the cool whip and spread over the cake once it is COMPLETELY cooled.  Sprinkle Heath bits over the top and drizzle with ganache or fudge topping.  Keep refrigerated until serving.

*Veronica’s notes: the reason I left out the sweetened condensed milk is that I used syrup instead of the thick ice cream topping and figured it was thin enough to soak into the cake without adding the milk.  I would recommend using the thicker butterscotch topping in a jar & mixing it with sweetened condensed milk (like in the recipe below) b/c it only soaked in partially and there’s a thin layer of syrup resting on top of the cake still, a day later.  Of course, that could be b/c I poked it with a fork instead of making big unsightly holes with a wooden spoon as directed below, but I couldn’t bring myself to uglify the cake that way, even if it was going to be covered up.  I’m weird.  Either way, you’re probably better off following Pillsbury’s instructions vs. mine.  The cake is still REALLY good (so good my gut is about to burst from overeating it), but if you want all that gooey butterscotch really soaked in well, don’t follow my directions.

PILLSBURY® CHOCOLATE CARAMEL WOW

1 18.5 Pillsbury® German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar Smucker’s® Caramel Topping
1 8-ounce tub Cool Whip®
2 to 4 chopped Butterfinger® candy bars

Bake cake in 13×9-inch pan as directed.
Cool for 5 minutes.

Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake.
In a small bowl, mix condensed milk and caramel topping, reserving 1/2 a cup.
Pour remaining caramel mixture over cake; cool completely.
Place whipped topping in medium bowl and fold in remaining caramel mixture.

Spread evenly over cake.
Sprinkle with chopped candy.
Cover loosely and refrigerate until served.
Store leftovers in refrigerator.

PMS Pie

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When you start screaming at the pot of water because it hasn’t boiled yet, then start slamming drawers while searching for your pasta server, and eventually start throwing utensils on the kitchen floor and then start grabbing things off the counter with intent to break as many of them as possible…you know it’s time to make this pie.  You can tell your friends that it’s Five-Layer Toffee Pie but you and I both know it’s just a cure for PMS.

*Warning: this sucker is RICH so cut into small slivers if you are not actually suffering from PMS.  Otherwise, this pie serves one.

PMS Pie (AKA Five-Layer Toffee Pie)

1 store-bought Oreo cookie crust (or make your own)
2 cups dulce de leche*, room temperature
1 (8-oz) container Cool Whip, thawed
1 (8-oz) bag toffee bits (you won’t use the whole bag but you’ll need something to sustain you until the pie is assembled)

Sprinkle some toffee bits over the bottom of the crust, spread the dulce de leche over it, sprinkle on some more toffee, spread on the Cool Whip,  and then top it off with more toffee.

It’s best to refrigerate it overnight so that the dulce de leche firms up but if you’re thinking about taking a meat cleaver to the back of your neighbor’s head for parking in front of your driveway again, by all means–dig in immediately!

*You can find dulce de leche on the Mexican foods aisle at your supermarket in a can the size of sweetened condensed milk.  If you can not find any, click here for my favorite method for preparing it at home..

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