Tag Archives: easy holiday gifts

Day 2 of Bakers Dozen: Fudge

Fudge. And that’s all I need to say about this post.

Kidding. Sort of. I love fudge. Really love fudge. But only good fudge. The kind you can get at a really good chocolate store. Rich and creamy and melts in your mouth (not to be confused with that *candy* that melts in your mouth, supposedly). And when it comes to fudge, I am a purist. Just chocolate for me please. Sure, I’ll try the others, with nuts, egg nog, pumpkin, cookies. They are all fine. Even made peanut butter for this post since hubby loves peanut butter. But I just want to savor my chocolate fudge. That’s all I need.

And this was the first time I had made fudge the way it is supposed to be made. No marshmallow fluff. No condensed milk. I’ve made those versions before. They are quick and easy. But not the real thing.  And not nearly as tasty. I did the old fashioned way of cooking the chocolate mixture to 235F and then waiting. And waiting. And waiting for the full 24 hours for the chocolate to completely set so you can then start nibbling. One piece here, just one more there. Oh fudge.

My hubby also loves fudge as much as I do, but his love is split between chocolate and peanut butter. The peanut butter fudge turned out good, but not amazing. It was a bit dry (but got better as the days went on) and I think that was because I used fresh ground hippy, dippy, and trippy peanut butter instead of those awful brands Skippy, Jif, and whatever other company dares to call their “product” peanut butter. I’ll spare you the ingredient list this time, but those products have  who knows what else added to the peanut butter. The product I used just had peanut butter. It had great peanut butter taste, just was a bit dry.

The perk about this peanut butter fudge is that it is really  easy to make. I actually made the peanut butter fudge while waiting for the chocolate fudge to cook. Yup, that easy. Just melt the butter and peanut butter together, make a mess while adding powdered sugar, and voila! Peanut butter fudge!

Meanwhile, you’ll still be waiting for the chocolate fudge to rise to the proper temperature. It will be worth your wait. Might as well clean your kitchen, since if you are like me, you will have powered sugar everywhere.

And who doesn’t like to receive fudge as a gift, all wrapped up and pretty?  It’s a sweet gift and from the heart.

Both recipes came from Brown Eyed Baker, who subsequently got the recipes from Joy of Cooking, which, sadly, I do not own. It’s a classic and I should have it. Maybe for Christmas. Thanks, Brown Eyed Baker for the fudge inspiration!

Chocolate Fudge

Yield: About 64 1 inch pieces

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Prep Time: 1 hour | Chill Time: 24 hours


2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil that extends over the sides. Butter the foil and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, half-and-half, heavy cream, light corn syrup and salt. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute. Brush down the sites of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water to remove any sugar crystals that may have formed, and remove from the heat. (Do not do this repeatedly – you will be adding extra water if you do this over and over again. Just once is fine.)

3. Stir in the chocolate until melted and completely smooth. Set the pan over medium heat and place a candy thermometer in the pan. Cook the mixture, without stirring, until it reaches 238 degrees F, the soft-ball stage. Remove from the heat.

4. Add the butter and vanilla but just let float on top – do not stir in (stirring at this point can cause graininess).

5. Cool the candy to 110 degrees F by placing the bottom of the pan in cold water to stop the cooking. This will take awhile, especially since you can’t stir.

6. When it is cool, stir the fudge in the pan with a wooden spoon just until it “snaps” and begins to lose its sheen.You will notice that it will be really shiny, and then almost dull. That’s when you are done. (Alternately, transfer the cooled fudge to the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the fudge on low speed until it begins to thicken and lose its sheen, 5 to 10 minutes. Watch the mixture carefully or it may thicken too much and become unworkable.)  I used my handheld KitchenAid mixer and it worked great…but…it has a very low speed 1. If your handheld does not have a low speed 1 (and many of the “bargain” ones don’t) I would not recommend this.

7. Stir in the walnuts if you are using them. Turn the fudge out into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with an offset spatula, moving quickly and keeping the spatula on the chocolate until you are done spreading. This will minimize the mess. Let stand for at least 1 hour.

8. Use a large knife to score the fudge into 1-inch squares (optional – it will still cut nicely when set) Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours.

9. Remove the fudge from the pan and peel off the foil. Use the knife to finish cutting the fudge into squares. The fudge can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. It can also be stored at room temperature if it won’t last long. And it won’t. Serve at room temperature.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Yield: 64 1 in pieces (1½ pounds)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Difficulty: Easy!


1¼ cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter
1¼ cups smooth peanut butter
Pinch of salt
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Butter an 8-inch non-stick baking dish (or line with buttered parchment paper) and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter and peanut butter until the mixtures comes to a boil. Remove from the heat. (It will all fit in a medium saucepan, but using a large one will help minimize the powdered sugar mess.)

3. Add the salt and vanilla extract, then stir in the powdered sugar until smooth and no lumps remain.

4. Pour the fudge mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the fudge and refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour. Cut into squares and serve. Fudge can be stored at cool room temperature in an airtight container.

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Baker’s Dozen Days of Christmas Day 1: Hot Cocoa & Peppermint Marshmallows

It’s December, in case you hadn’t checked your calendar yet. That means the holiday season is in full swing! I know this time of year means different things to different people. I’m not religious, so for me it means spending time with loved ones, putting smiles on their faces with yummy food, and well, eating, drinking, and being merry. I’ve made it a rule the past few years not to go overboard and really just enjoy this time of year.

I did some quick research on the 12 Days of Christmas, since I didn’t know much about it, and technically it starts December 25 and ends January 5. Well, I’m not going to follow that rule and plan to have my 13 days – a baker’s dozen – done long before that so we can enjoy the holiday treats.

Day 1 is a very easy project and one that makes great gifts for family and friends – hot cocoa and marshmallows! Who doesn’t love hot cocoa during the holidays? Both recipes are from Alton Brown – so you know they rock – and are easy to do with little time required. Ok, so the marshmallows can be slightly intimidating, but once you make them you’ll see just how easy it is. And tasty.

In fact, my hope is that once you make your very own hot cocoa mix, you’ll wonder why on earth you were wasting your money with sub par products like Swiss Miss. Let’s talk about the ingredient list in a package of Swiss Miss. I found this on Wal-mart.

Swiss Miss: Sugar, Corn Syrup, dutch process cocoa, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil , Nonfat Dry Milk, Less Than 2% Of : Natural Flavor, Carrageenan, Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- And Diglycerides (huh?). Contains Milk.

Homemade hot chocolate: powdered sugar, dutch process cocoa, powdered milk, salt, and cornstarch.

Cayenne pepper is optional, but I like it (didn’t add it for my gifts though – not everyone is crazy about cayenne in their hot cocoa. They just don’t know what they are missing!).

Maybe you think I’m overreacting, but I’d rather have the cocoa with the ingredient list I can pronounce. Just. Saying. And you know what? It took all of five minutes to make. Dump all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and you have a whole bunch of hot cocoa for much cheaper and better quality than buying a prepackaged product. And you can make it pretty and give it as gifts. This is what I did:

You could probably do better than me and even add a cute little scoop or something. And probably cuter labels. I’m not the most crafty person around.

This recipe makes several cups of dry cocoa. I don’t know how many servings because I am still using mine. But it will make a lot. And it is so yummy, especially when made with hot milk. Rich and creamy and chocolatey.

Moving on to the marshmallows. This isn’t quite as easy as the hot cocoa, but still only took about 30 minutes, depending on how you cut the them. And Alton’s recipe uses gelatin instead of egg whites, which makes the recipe even easier and almost fool proof. That’s good, right? Right. I tried to take pictures while making the marshmallows, but well, that just didn’t work. Didn’t want the camera too close to hot sugar, nor did I want to be distracted while working with hot sugar.

You do need a candy thermometer (or a digital one like this) and you need a mixer. Handheld will work, but you’ll be holding it for about 15 minutes. That said, it’s pretty basic. Disolve gelatin, bring sugar mixture to 240F, slowly pour hot sugar into gelatin and mix for about 15 minutes until you see fluffy white marshmallow. I also added a bit of red food coloring and peppermint extract. You could use any extract and color you want. Isn’t it great when you have creative control? And, on top of all that, you can use cookie cutters to create fun shapes. I did candy canes.

They taste so fresh and pillowy! After having homemade marshmallows you’ll wonder just how long the store bought versions have been sitting on the shelves. And let’s not forget the ingredient list. We’ll use Kraft Jet Puffed.

Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallows: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Water, Gelatin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Artificial Flavor (gee, that’s my favorite flavor!), Artificial Color (Blue 1).

Homemade marshmallows: gelatin, sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla. (Plus cornstarch and more sugar for dusting).

Again, the choice is clear. Why put artificial stuff in your body if you don’t have you? People call me a food snob because I refuse to eat anything artificial. I’m not sure why refusing to eat chemically made “food” makes me a snob, but I’m ok with that.

On that note, I’ll step off my soap box and move on to the recipes.

Yield: 5 1/2 cups dry mix

Difficulty: Really easy!

Hot Cocoa

Recipe from Alton Brown (I didn’t change a thing!)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • Hot water or milk

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. Store in airtight container. When ready to use, warm water or milk in a mug and add several spoonfuls of dry mix (start with just one or two, and add until you like the taste). Top with marshmallows.


Recipe from Alton Brown

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 to 2 drops gel food coloring (optional)

1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat. (this took a bit longer for me, but I turned the heat down).

3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Make sure you do NOT pour the sugar onto the whisk! Sugar will go everywhere and you may get hurt!) Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows. (there is also a method for “mini” marshmallows that involve piping, but cutting them will be much easier).

4. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

5. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

And that’s it! Both recipes took less than 45 minutes combined! Enjoy!





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