Monday, December 21, 2015

Mint Fudge Wonderland!

When I'm feeling down, there are a few words that bring comfort to me and fill me with hope and happiness upon hearing...words like "puppies," "BOGO," or most things prefaced by the word "free" for example. But nothing takes me from catatonic to a level of glee best described as "only child at a pony farm" quite like the word fudge. Coincidentally, if I'm in your home and you tell me there's fudge, you can also see me go from calm and rested to in your kitchen in under .2 seconds, so I've got that party trick going for me. I adore fudge: flavored chocolate served to me in slab form. Perfection. My favorite place in the world to get fudge is a kitschy little Bavarian town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. I enjoyed visiting there to eat delicious German foods and contemplate whether lederhosen is as uncomfortable to wear as it is ridiculous-looking. I mean, the fudge there is so good you can even order it online and send it directly to your mouth via your mailbox. But since Frankenmuth Fudge isn't paying me to blog about their wares, I'm forced to make my own fudge. My all-time favorite fudge fits in perfectly with the holiday season because it is loaded with tons of mint! I was trying to come up with a Christmas song to riff off of here but "Silent Night, Fudgy Night" took on a very different meaning once typed, so I'll just continue on and tell you about my mint chocolate fudge recipe.
Melt in your mouth AND your soul! Fudge lovers rejoice!
So we all know how the free Andes mint after your Olive Garden meal feels like total overkill after shoveling down several baskets of free bread sticks and all the carbs, but we eat it anyway because mint chocolate is worth the gut bomb in all its deliciousness. This mint fudge recipe is essentially one 8x8 slab of giant Andes mint, and it is ah-mazing. I am trying my best to save the entire pan for Christmas company, but I keep finding reasons to shave slivers of fudge off every time I pass through the kitchen. Just finished my workout? I could use some fudge. Accidentally flayed my thumb open from knuckle to knuckle with my own pinky nail? I could use some fudge. First non-kitchen related injury in a year? I could use some fudge. Seriously, my thumb hurts and not just because it was betrayed by another one of my fingers. The fudge soothes me.
Did I mention this was really easy to make? The thumb pain is causing memory loss.
Five whole ingredients and you're going to be the hit of the Christmas dessert table. You can feel smug in knowing it took you ten minutes to make something that everyone will devour in five. Fudge is on the exact opposite end of the dessert effort scale from a fully decorated cake. So gather up:
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk divided in half (I poured half the can into a small liquid measuring cup and left the other half in the can)
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp of mint extract depending on how minty you like things
  • A few drops of green food coloring
 Start by lining an 8x8 pan with foil so it hangs over the edges. Then get two medium-sized sauce pans out and put the bag of semisweet chips into one and the white chips into the other. Start by heating the white chips over medium heat while stirring frequently to keep from burning. Pour a little bit of the divided milk into the white chocolate chips and stir like crazy (I made the mistake of pouring the full half of the milk into my chips and it was nearly impossible to get things to melt nicely again). Once your white chocolate is melty again in consistency, pour in the rest of the divided milk and stir like crazy. Finish up the white chips by adding in the mint extract and green food coloring and mix until nice and melty again. Place this on low heat.

Now melt the semisweet chocolate chips on medium heat while stirring frequently to keep from burning. Take the other half of the divided milk and pour a little bit in and stir like crazy. Once the chips are melty again, pour in the rest of the divided milk and stir.

Here's where you can get fancy. You can dollop a spoonful of the now mint chocolate into the 8x8 pan and then a spoonful of the semisweet chocolate into the pan and repeat quickly a kajillion times before swirling with a knife. OR...
You can just pour the semisweet chocolate in and smooth it out...
Then pour the mint chocolate on top...

And just smooth it out. Optional: top with chopped Andes mints, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc. before it fully sets.
It's fudge. It doesn't have to be pretty. It is going to taste fantastic with or without the swirling effort. I honestly wanted to do the swirl, but my chocolate was hardening up insanely fast since I added each half of the condensed milk all at once, and my chocolates never got all that melty after that. Layers of fudge seemed practical and less shame-inducing. I really hate making mistakes, but the edge is taken off when they still end up being tasty mistakes. Once you've got your fudge in the pan, place it in the fridge to harden for at least a few hours to overnight. I left mine in overnight and removed first thing this morning. Once it came to room temp, I sliced my fudge up to take some pictures. This incidentally led to me eating what I will now call "breakfast fudge." Anything can be eaten for breakfast if you simply preface it with the word breakfast. Breakfast cake, breakfast pie, breakfast sundaes...

Anyhow, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas. If you're traveling, at least El NiƱo is keeping things unseasonably hot and snow-free around most of the country, so that's nice. If your family is visiting you, I hope you've stocked up on a higher than reasonable about of meat and booze. Regardless of your plans, I hope Santa (or your very patient significant other) brings you everything you've wished for, like world peace or a Ferrari. If not, at least you have my gift of fudge. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
All I want for Christmas is fuuudddggee! Whew, it was really going to drive me crazy if I couldn't come up with a Christmas song to riff off of.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tis the Season to Be Minty

Peppermint does for winter what pumpkin spice does for gives it flavor. It was a very cold and snowy Thanksgiving for us when we visited family in Colorado, and all I wanted was a some spiked hot chocolate. Thankfully, my brother pulled through for me and made a delicious hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps combo. Heaven, I tell you (both the drink and the fact that being the baby of the family means other people will always do stuff for me). It was in that moment that I decided this flavor needed to be made into a dessert of some sort. Mint chocolate is definitely one of my favorites, but peppermint and chocolate just takes things the extra dessert mile. My mom used to be able to find these fantastically amazing chocolates with crushed peppermint in them at Macy's. It was quite literally one of the most enjoyable parts of my annual Christmas pig out. Sadly, they no longer make them, so I was left with a peppermint chocolatey void in my life and/or mouth. I couldn't face a second Christmas in a row without them, and thus, the peppermint chocolate cupcake with peppermint butter cream frosting and crushed peppermint topped cupcake was born. I really, really like peppermint, y'all. I always failed at turning my candy canes into fake vampire or walrus teeth like every other normal child does because I could never resist just chomping the damn things into pieces and eating them as fast as possible. Most people savor a candy cane for like an hour; I'm done with one in about 43 seconds.
Let me tell you about how amazing my house smelled after making these.
Winter Wonderland has a smell, and it is peppermint chocolate cupcakes. Drool factor is a 10 out of 10. We had a small gathering last night to play Cards Against Humanity and mini beer pong, and I wasn't planning on serving these up but instead saving them for myself because I am both greedy and a glutton (just checking those Seven Deadly Sins right off the list). I put these in my cake safe and placed them on top of the fridge. I sorta figured that was the international symbol for "off limits," but considering most of our friends (and my husband) are extremely tall, this was like precisely at eye-level for practically everyone except me. There was oogling, and quite a few people managed to snake a cupcake. When you come to my house, it is pretty much assumed there will be dessert, so this was my mistake really. But I channeled my inner-Grinch and ended up hiding them so I would actually get to eat one before they all disappeared. Don't look at me like that...the recipe only makes 12, and I have to be able to taste test my work so I can bring you these delightfully insightful blogs every week after all. So let me give you the recipe for these delicious cupcakes so you, too, can also hide dessert from the people you love. Tis the season to be selfish, fa la la la la la la la greed.
I know, looks like a lot, but they are so easy!
I found and adapted this recipe to make things even peppermintier. Not a real word, but fun to say. So gather up:
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 TBS of flour
  • 3/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBS of unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup room temp butter
  • 1 room temp egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  •  2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder dissolved into 1/2 cup of boiling water
Preheat the oven to 350, and start by mixing together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a large bowl. In a stand mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add in the egg and extracts and mix well. Add in half the dry mix and all of the buttermilk and blend well. Add in the other half of the dry mix and the espresso and blend well. Don't worry fellow coffee-haters, this tastes absolutely nothing like coffee, but instead the espresso gives the chocolate a nice, dark taste.
Throw the batter into a lined muffin tin and bake for 18-20 minutes. Your house will begin to smell like what dreams are made of.
Once done, place on a cooling rack to cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan and continue to allow them to come to room temp. Drool all over yourself due to the smell.
Christmas isn't really my thing. I hate Christmas music, I hate red and green in combination, and I really, really hate sappy Christmas movies (exception being A Christmas Story, because leg lamp). I will say though that Christmas is a joy when it comes to baking. My house smells amazing for the entire month of December, but if I could bottle the smell that these cupcakes filled my house with and sell it, I would be a very, very rich Scrooge.
There's a peppermintception occurring with this frosting.
Once the cupcakes are cooled and you're nearing your ability to resist eating all 12 at once, make the peppermint butter cream frosting:
  • 1 cup of room temp butter
  • 5 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of peppermint extract
  •  5 TBS of the forgot-to-be-pictured heavy cream or milk
  • Handful of crushed peppermint candy canes/peppermint candies to top frosting with
Cream the butter until fluffy and then add in 2 cups of powdered sugar, the vanilla, the peppermint, and 2 TBS of heavy cream and blend. Add in another  2 cups of sugar and 2 TBS of cream and mix well. Add the final cup of sugar and TBS of cream and finish blending. Now that I think about it, you could probably omit the peppermint extract and change one or two TBS of heavy cream to peppermint Schnapps and make this frosting boozy. Clearly I'm going to have to make these cupcakes again to try that because apparently like most of my best ideas, this one came far too late in the game. Sadness, thy name is Kate.
Not blood. Promise.
To get the cool two-toned effect, paint a thick line of red gel frosting dye on each side of the piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice (I used one bag with a 2D for half and another bag with a 1M for the rest because I am an adult and I do what I want). Carefully load up the bag with frosting, and it will look something like this:
Why are my wrists so veiny? Am I dying?
 Now pipe away! I did a traditional swirl like so:
Okay, this kinda gives me the Christmas spirit. I get's nice to feel full of joy and hope, but I always feel that way when dessert is involved. Unless it's flan, and then you've filled me with rage and scientific questions about its consistency somehow being edible.
Aren't these gorgeous? Aren't you surprised I can take an accidentally artsy photo on occasion? Me too. Don't forget to add the peppermint candies on top when you're done applauding my creativity.
I am super happy to report that these taste even better than they smell. It isn't easy being a Grinch (lies), but I had to do it in the name of blogging (also lies). Although my heart did not grow three sizes upon consumption, my butt may very well have. These definitely aren't low on calories, but anything crammed with this much chocolate and peppermint simply is worth that extra hundred sit ups or five miles of jogging...try eating them while working out and it's a two-fer! I'm always here to offer you reasonable solutions to life's simplest of problems. I am a blogger with heart. A heart that is probably loaded with cupcake remnants and fried chicken. All I want for Christmas is to be able to eat anything I want without gaining an ounce. Is that so hard, Santa? If you can make reindeer fly, I feel like this is a pretty simple request. While I continue to place my faith in a fat, bearded man who really appears to enjoy his own fair share of cupcakes, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. We're off to gallivant in Tahoe soon and then host family for Christmas, so I'll be back with some more delicious minty recipes soon. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Just load these up in a stocking, and you're set on gift giving until next year...we wish you a merry cupcake and a happy cheat day!