Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

This year I put an idea I found on Whipperberry to use as a Christmas goodie to give out. It was yummy and cute and several folks asked for a recipe, so I figured I would share it and my observations here.

The Hot Chocolate on a Stick that I made consists of three parts: (A) candy cane, (B) homemade marshmallow, (C) chocolate ganache block. The candy canes were not homemade (sorry) but the other parts were, and the recipes will be found below, along with assembly tips and instructions. I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I was home alone and making these things required both hands! If you visit Whipperberry's posts (link above) you can see her pictures.

I was so pleased with how my marshmallows turned out, even though I had several things working against me, namely:
  • I don't own a candy thermometer, so I had to guess as to when to remove my mélange from the stove
  • Totally forgot to add vanilla!!
  • I also don't own a standing mixer, and my hand mixer couldn't handle the thick, gooey marshmallow for more than about 5-6 minutes, as opposed to the 12-15 minutes recommended in the original recipe.
I was so worried, when I was pouring it into the baking dish to set, that I was going to end up with marshmallow creme. It was so sticky and gooey. But it actually worked and they were melt-in-your-mouth yummy!

Homemade Marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin (I bought a box with 4 envelopes, and used 3)
1 c ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 c sugar (granulated sugar, nothing special)
1 c light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
~ 1/3 c each powdered sugar and cornstarch (the original recipe calls for 1 c of each, but I ended up with a lot left over....)
nonstick cooking spray (or a paper towel and some crisco)
  1. Combine 1/3 c powdered sugar and 1/3 c cornstarch in a small bowl. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with mixture. Reserve any extra in bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl (or in a standing mixer, if you have one) combine gelatin and 1/2 c cold water. After a few minutes it will look oddly solid but this is ok.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Place over medium high heat and cover. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Uncover and cook (I suggest stirring constantly) for 7-8 minutes, or until mixture reaches 240°F (soft ball stage)
  5. Remove from heat immediately, and pour into bowl with gelatin/water mixture. Using hand mixer or standing mixer, whip until very thick, white, and lukewarm in temperature. As mentioned above, it took about 5-6 minutes to get so thick my hand mixer could no longer mix.
  6. Add vanilla in final minute or so of whipping.
  7. Pour into prepared baking dish (see step 1). It is so sticky, you will want to use a rubber spatula. It's ok if you do not spread it to fit the entire dish, but try to get it to be an even height all the way across.
  8. Pour some of the remaining cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture on top. Whatever is left will be used to coat the sticky edges of your individual marshmallows when you cut them. You might have some bubbles show up in your marshmallow but I think it adds character :o)
  9. Let this rest, uncovered, for at least 4 hours before cutting. To cut, turn out onto cutting board and slice with a pizza cutter or cookie cutters. Coat individual marshmallows with leftover cornstarch/powdered sugar to cut down on sticky fingers. My marshmallows were approximately 2" squares.

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 c heavy cream (whipping cream)
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
  1. Line an 8x8 baking dish with foil. Set aside.
  2. Heat heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler on the stove (you can use 2 pots of about the same diameter for a double boiler: fill one with 2-3 inches of water and rest the other pot over it. You will want the top pot to completely cover the bottom pot in order to use all of the heat from steam.). Heat on a low setting so water does not boil over.
  3. Add chocolate chips and let melt.
  4. Once melted, add vanilla and whisk until smooth.
  5. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared baking dish.
  6. Let sit ~6 hours.
  7. Pull foil out of baking dish (with ganache inside), taking care to not disturb ganache by folding/jerking/etc.
  8. Turn out onto plate and remove foil.
  9. Let sit ~2 hours. This will let the ganache set up a little more, aiding in cutting.
  10. Once set (should no longer be overly sticky to touch), you can cut the ganache. I cut it into ~2" squares. It will still be sticky on the sides. I recommend cutting it as you assemble your hot chocolate on a stick.

Assembling your Hot Chocolate on a Stick:
  1. Remove about 2-3" of candy cane wrapper from straight part of cane.
  2. Insert unwrapped candy cane into center of one marshmallow, pushing marshmallow up about 1".
  3. Insert bottom part of unwrapped candy cane into center of one ganache square.
  4. My ganache was so sticky that in order for this to work for me, I needed to let my individual servings lay on a plate until the ganache had set up even more before I could wrap them. This takes ~1 hour.
  5. Place into a plastic bag or wrap in saran wrap and tape/tie closed.

Whipperberry has a label printout you can use, with instructions for turning your treat into hot chocolate (stir into 4-8 oz. heated milk). Unfortunately, I had already labeled most of mine before I realized the typo on the labels ("chocolate" is spelled wrong) and I didn't have success in fixing the image on my computer on a time crunch.

Overall though, I was very pleased with how these turned out!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Spinach dip in a Sourdough bread bowl

For the Bradshaw Family Christmas party this year, we were assigned to bring an appetizer. After mulling over our options, we settled on spinach dip, one of my favorite dishes.

I headed to the local Walmart figuring I would find the little soup mix box with the recipe on the side. They didn't have it. I picked up the Great Value brand Onion Soup mix and figured I could make it work. I knew I also needed spinach, mayo, sour cream, and water chestnuts, based on prior experiences with spinach dip, so I grabbed these items and headed home. Oh, and also some sourdough. A boule and a square (for dipping).

Fortunately, I found this recipe online using the onion soup mix. It's basically the same as the more well-known Knorr recipe, except with a different flavor soup.

Spinach Dip
1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 c mayonnaise
1 packet onion soup mix
1 1/2 c sour cream (about 16 oz.)
1 can water chestnuts, drained and diced
  1. Thaw and drain spinach. I pour the spinach into a colander and let lukewarm water run through it in the sink until it is no longer icy. Squeeze water out of spinach. I also find it helpful to chop the spinach a little extra.
  2. Mix sour cream and mayonnaise.
  3. Add onion soup mix and stir to combine.
  4. Add spinach and water chestnuts and continue to mix until well dispersed.
Spinach dip is especially yummy and pretty when presented in a sourdough boule. You will need to cut out the top and middle of the bread boule to turn it into a bread bowl. This is accomplished by taking a knife and carefully slicing into the top of the bread, being sure not to cut through the bottom. You have to use your hands to pull the inside of the bread out, and then continue to shape the inside so it can hold the max amount of dip.

For our party, I doubled the amount of dip (still using only one can of water chestnuts). I cut the sourdough boule insides, and the sourdough square loaf, into small cubes (~ 1-2"). Not all of the dip fit into my bread bowl so I kept the extra in a separate bowl. The idea is to use the small bread cubes to dip into the spinach dip, and at the end you can also eat the bread bowl (of course!).