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Tuesday
Dec162014

Homemade Layered Peppermint Bark

This homemade candy not only looks so pretty but it's absolutely delicious, and I'm not even a big peppermint fan. Making it yourself is quite a fun project and you can make it quite a bit ahead as it keeps well in the fridge or the freezer. I remember the first time I ever made it and tasted it and could not believe how addictive it was - so it makes great gifts at the holidays! 

 

I always make a little treat of some kind to hand out on Christmas Eve every year and this is what I made last year.  I just designed a little label and printed them out on my computer with Epson Adhesive Sheets, which let you cut out any size label.  

 

Follow the directions carefully - it's important to use good quality chocolate and chill the candy thoroughly between each layer.   The originial recipe calls for 17 ounces of white chocolate, but I have changed that to 16 ounces - most chocolate comes in 4 ounce packages and it just doesn't make sense to use 17 ounces.  I used an even 16, from four packages, and it was perfect.

Homemade Layered Peppermint Bark

for a printable recipe click here

yield: makes about 36 pieces
don't be tempted to use cheap white chocolate (like Nestle's).  Your results will not be nearly as good as if you use a good quality white chocolate

ingredients
  • 16 ounces good-quality white chocolate (I used Ghirardelli), broken into pieces
  • 30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed, about 6 oz. (I used already crushed Peppermint Snow from Williams Sonoma but I know Brach's makes crushed candy canes and King Arthur Flour sells it, also)
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet)
  • 6 tablespoons whipping cream
  • ¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

instructions

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Mark 12 x 9-inch rectangle on foil. Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water) until chocolate is just melted and smooth. Do not overheat.  I take the chocolate off the heat before it is fully smooth and then use a whisk and stir it until it is completely smooth.) Remove from over water. Pour ⅔ cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle. Sprinkle with ¼ cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.  Make sure your chocolate at this point is thoroughly chilled because, if it is not, the next step will not work right and you will end up with a chocolate streaked white chocolate layer on top!

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section diagonally into 2 triangles. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.) Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Be sure to store this in the refrigerator - storing at room temperature does not work for this candy. It gets too soft and the pieces will stick together.

 

Tuesday
Dec022014

Cranberry Orange Braided Bread

 

I love making these kinds of breakfast breads, leaving them on the kitchen counter and letting everyone nibble on them for a couple of days.  These breads really are not hard to make - this kind of sweet dough is very easy to work with and you can make the fillings with lots of different things to suit your own taste. This version is with dried cranberries, walnuts and some orange zest. 

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Tuesday
Nov182014

Make Ahead Buffet Mashed Potatoes

Are you one of those people who find it stressful at Thanksgiving to get the bird and the mashed potatoes and the gravy and everything else on the table at the same time?  Well, there are tricks to help you at least eliminate the stress about the mashed potatoes.  Here are three that I find very helpful:  you can make the mashed potatoes hours ahead of the meal and stick them on low in a crockpot. They keep very well until dinner time.  Or, if you don't have a crockpot, you can place them in a large bowl, set them over a pot of simmering water (effectively creating a double boiler) and let them stay warm that way.  Another way is to make these absolutely declicious Buffet Mashed Potatoes, a recipe that I want to share with you because I've been making these for about 20 years.  You can make them the day before and refrigerate until ready to bake or you can even make them ahead and freeze them. Totally takes the stress out of the mashed potatoes.

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