Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters

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For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Brittany’s blog We Heart Vegan. I was excited to try out some new vegan stuff and began looking through lots of interesting recipes. But then life caught up with me. I came home tired or had to do work, so I turned to something simple yet comforting. Salty and sweet Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters? Please and thank you.

This recipe too was a great way to use up my hoarded peanuts and pretzels from Southwest flights (I often feel too nervous/sick to my stomach to eat on planes but damn it I paid for my ticket and I am getting my free snack and assorted soft drink).  I also apologize for a hasty picture.  After I made these, the aroma of chocolate made me temporarily forget that I was meant to take a picture, leaving me to remember only after I had begun eating most of these clusters in one sitting.

PEANUT PRETZEL CHOCOLATE CLUSTERS
Adapted from We Heart Vegan

INGREDIENTS

2 cups milk chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter
Vanilla extract
Crushed pretzels
Salted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

In a double broiler, combine chocolate, salt, butter, and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in your desired amount of pretzels and peanuts (feel free to add anything else too your heart desires). Spread onto a prepared baking sheet or wax paper into a single layer. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces. Store in refrigerator.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

How to Deep Fry Candy: Cadbury Crème Scotch Egg

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Easter is a very important time of the year for me for one main reason: lots and lots of candy.

So I think that it’s time to learn how to deep fry candy.  Are you ready?

Now I normally eat healthy, mostly vegetarian even, with lots of fruits and vegetables.  But some days I just need sugar- and not just sugar but deep fried sugar.  And then there are days when I just want to eat frosting with a spoon.  But today is a day for deep fried dessert- let’s save the frosting for tomorrow.

Let me walk you through the steps to get some warm, sweet, fried treats.  It’ll be like a state fair in your own home.  No need to weave through endless crowds and screaming children- we can enjoy our deep friend treats in silence at home (or while watching

This time I decided to go all out. Four words: Deep. Fried. Cadbury. Egg.

Cadbury eggs just may be one of my most favorite types of candy out there, and I still have a few leftover from Easter.  I was inspired by Cakespy’s dessert version of the English bar food Scotch Egg.  I love a good pun on a plate.

If you don’t like Cadbury eggs (I feel sad for you), you can do this with any candy bar or cookie.  Follow the same basic techniques here.  The recipe below is a more complicated and fancy batter (if you can call deep friend chocolate fancy).  First, you coat the candy in a gooey chocolate batter, and then you roll it in a salty crunchy Ritz cracker topping for that ultimate sweet and salt combo. Deep fry it, and boom: instant gratification.

The best tip for deep frying  is to have everything ready when you start dipping and frying.  Work slowly and carefully and follow directions.  Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your oil: nothing is worse than a stomach-ache 30 minutes after enjoying a deep-fried treat because your oil was not hot enough.

If you want a simpler, more classic version of deep fried food, you can also just use any pancake batter (even the batter from a box) in place of a homemade batter.   Just follow the same general steps in this recipe: heat oil, dip in batter, deep fry, drain, devour.

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CADBURY CREME SCOTCH EGG
Barely Adapted from Cakespy

INGREDIENTS

4 Cadbury crème eggs, frozen
1 1/4 cup flour, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup crushed Ritz
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons oil
Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Unwrap and freeze Cadbury eggs for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.*

Prepare your batter and dipping process. In a bowl, place a 1/2 cup of flour. In another bowl, lightly beat one egg. In a third bowl, place crushed Ritz. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with oil so that it is about 4-6 inches deep. Heat oil to 375°F. (This will take about 12-17 minutes). When oil is almost to temperature, begin making batter.

In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, salt, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Whisk in milk, vinegar, and oil. This should be a thick and somewhat sticky batter (thicker than a pancake mixture).

Working with one Cadbury egg at a time (leaving the others in the freezer). Place into prepared batter. Completely coat with spoon. You want the egg completely covered but be careful not to make this batter coating too thick (you will have leftover batter after frying all your eggs).

Using floured hands transfer to bowl with flour. Coat with flour. Dip in beaten egg. Dip into crushed Ritz crackers and coat. Fry for 1-1 1/2 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining Cadbury eggs (you can keep them warm by placing them on a baking sheet in an oven at 250°F.).

Makes 4 Scotch Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Homemade White Chocolate Butterfinger Bark

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I am definitely for any holiday that has lots of candy.

Which, in America, seems to be every holiday.  But Halloween is the king of all candy holidays.  ‘Tis the holiday Halloween spirit to eat so much candy that you want to throw up.

And here is my way of doing my part for this blessed, sugary day.  I bet some of you have some bags of candy corn in your pantry right now.  Let’s make some candy out of that candy!  Turns out if you combine candy corn and a little peanut butter, you get that crunchy Butterfinger filling.  Life changer.

And what peanut butter candy is complete without chocolate?  By my personal preference, I made my bark with white chocolate (love the white chocolate peanut butter holiday candy!), but milk or dark chocolate would be just as great.

Make sure to enjoy your sugar filled holiday with lots of candy while you can.  Because the next holiday celebrates with lots of food food (turkey, cranberries, and stuffing oh yes) but in my opinion, not enough candy.

Reese peanut butter turkeys anyone?

(Psst…if you still have leftover candy after making these butterfingers, I highly recommend my candy corn pancakes as breakfast for dinner)

BUTTERFINGER BARK
Barely Adapted from Cookies and Cups

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups candy corn
3/4 cup peanut butter
12 ounces white chocolate bark

DIRECTIONS

Melt white chocolate in a double broiler.  Spread onto wax paper or silpat (at least 9 x 9 inches).  Chill until set, about 10-20 minutes.

Premeasure you peanut butter.

Melt candy corn in a double broiler, stirring constantly. (Or you can put it in the microwave for 30 second 50% power intervals until melted).  Immediately stir in peanut butter over the double broiler.  Working quickly (this stuff hardens fast), spread on top of white chocolate.  Chill until set, about 10-20 minutes.  Break into pieces.  Keep in the fridge.

Twix Bars: Secret Recipe Club

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I have been having a bit of a sweet tooth problem lately- as in I want sugar, only sugar, and right now.

This is my dream: a truck of sugar reversing into my apartment complex and dumping its sugar contents directly on top of me until I am completely submerged.  Is it normal to have a fantasy of being suffocated to death by tons of sugar?  Someone interpret that dream.

Given my hyper-intense need for sugar, I was excited when I was assigned That Skinny Chick Can Bake for this month’s Secret Recipe Club.  So many desserts, so little time.  If you ever have a sweet craving, you should definitely check out her site.

After looking through lots of delicious looking recipes, I came to a simple conclusion: sometimes all we need in life is a candy bar.  For me, that candy bar would be a Twix.  Or Take Five or Snickers or Reeses Peanut Butter Cup or any form of sugar in bar form- but today that candy bar I need is  a Twix since I can’t make all those candy bars in one day (or shouldn’t).  A Twix is a classic combo of a shortbread crust, caramel, and chocolate.  So simple and perfect no alterations were needed.

The bars came out wonderful- soft caramel, crumbly crust, and soft chocolate.  Take a moment (obligatory).

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TWIX BARS
From That Skinny Chick Can Bake

INGREDIENTS

For the Shortbread Crust:
1 stick butter, cold and cut in 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the Caramel
12 ounces Caramel bites
2 tablespoons whole milk
Pinch of salt

For the Chocolate Layer:
9 ounces milk chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening

DIRECTIONS

For the Shortbread Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 Line a 9 inch by 9 inch pan with foil. Grease and set aside.

Place sugar and butter in a food processor. Pulse until mixture becomes crumbly. Add vanilla, flour, and salt. Pulse until just incorporated. Press into prepared pan. Price the crust with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is light golden brown color. Cool completely.

For the Caramel Layer:

Combine caramel, cream, and salt in small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until melted. Spread over cooled crust with a greased rubber spatula. Chill for at least 15-30 minutes until caramel layer has firmed up.

For the Chocolate Layer:

In a double broiler combine chocolate and butter. Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally. Spread over caramel layer. Chill for 10-20 minutes at until chocolate layer has set. Cut into bars.



Candy Butterscotch Tart with Vanilla Buttercream

Honesty time: I have had a bag of Snickers sitting in my fridge since August.  My parents brought them as a road trip snack when I moved into my apartment and left them here.  I have only worked my way a little way half through the bag.  The existence of said snickers is due in part to the fact that I like to bake my own sweets and in part to the fact that they got buried under a bunch of stuff in my fridge for a while.

Now, I am a notorious candy hoarder.  In fact, I have already started buying Easter peeps to stock up in order to be able to enjoy sugar coated marshmallows until the next holiday season.  I’m basically like a bear or squirrel preparing for hibernation but with candy.  Snickers are all well and good, but frankly, they need to make room for important, limited edition holiday candy.  And soda.  I promise I do eat some vegetables too.

Since I also had some butterscotch chips sitting in my cabinets, I combined these two together in a wonderful chewy blondie.  And then for good measure, I topped it with a vanilla buttercream.  Now I am happy to have a bag of Snickers in my fridge as an excuse to make these blondies again.

CANDY BUTTERSCTOCH TART WITH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
Blondie Slightly Adapted from Becky Bakes
Buttercream Slightly Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
INGREDIENTS
For the Butterscotch Tart:
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup chopped Snickers (or any candy bar)
For the Vanilla Buttercream:
1 cup & 2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 vanilla beans
DIRECTIONS
For the Butterscotch Tart:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9 inch pie plate or 6-7 4 inch individual tart pans.Place butterscotch chips in a heat-proof bowl.  Bring a pot of water to a gentle simmer.  Place bowl on top and cook until buttersctoch chips have melted, stirring occassionally.  Whisk in granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract.  Stir in flour and salt until just combined.  Fold in chopped candy bars.  Pour into prepared pie pans.  Bake for 12-17 minutes, until just cooked through.  Cool completely.

For the Vanilla Buttercream:


In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract together.  Scrape the inside of the vanilla beans and fold into buttercream.  Top blondies with a generous dollop of buttercream.

Chocolate Brigadeiros

Something about this time of year makes me want to break out the candy thermometer and whip up some sweet little candies, fudges, and caramels.  Sometimes it is soothing for me to stir and watch simple ingredients become transformed into something completely different.  These Brigadeiros are an easy version of fudge and caramel mixed together.  They taste chocolately yet caramely sweet at the same time.  Toppings can add a little crunch and make them look cute.  So easy to pop into your mouth.
These are easy to put together- no candy thermometer required.  Just a little stirring over heat, chilling, and viola: candy.  The hardest part was definitely scooping the cooled chocolate into balls.  While my lack of upper body strength can account for part of this, it does take a little elbow grease to scoop it out.  Completely worth it.  We added these to our Thanksgiving dessert for a chocolate addition, but they would also be great at any holiday party or as a gift for friends and family.
I hope you all are enjoying holiday baking and cooking (or will when you start).  I am home for the next month in a big kitchen again (with real sunlight!), and I am itching to get started. We all need to put on a little layer of extra warmth for winter anyway, right?
CHOCOLATE BRIGADEIROS
INGREDIENTS

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon half and half
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Chopped hazelnuts, cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles for coating

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan combined sweetened condensed milk, butter, half and half, and corn syrup over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder.  Reduce heat to low. Cook for 8-10 minutes, whisking constantly.  The mixture is done cooking when you tilt the pan and the mixture slides in one piece, leaving a residue at the bottom of the pan.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours.  Using a teaspoon or melon baller, roll into balls.  Roll in hazelnuts, cocoa powder, or sprinkles.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.  Serve cool or at room temperature.

Makes 35-40 brigadeiros.

Candy Corn Pancakes

Let me take a wild guess about something.  I bet right now you just may have some extra candy on your hands.  Or, if you’re like me, you are planning to go on a shopping splurge in the upcoming days when all the candy is discounted to make room for turkeys.  I plan on stocking up on candy so I have enough to last me until next October 31st.

Candy corn is a classic October treat.  I love it since it basically tastes like a chewy piece of sugar.  Is there anything better than just eating a sugary treat?  You may be saying “No.  No, there is not”, but here is some news: you can put sugary candy corn in pancakes!  And you can eat them for dinner!!This is a decadent Halloween treat that will help rot your teeth even more. Pancakes dotted with chewy, sweet candy corn and all topped with warm honey or maple syrup is a great incentive to make you want to get out of bed in the morning (or to help you make it through the day so you can eat them for dinner).  You can use any pancake batter you want (even instant, Hungry Jack being my preference).  I used an oatmeal based batter in order to incorporate a little health into these pancakes.  Oatmeal counteracts the candy corn, right?  In this batch I also used a caramel candy corn, which was good, but I think the classic plain candy corn is still the best Halloween treat (followed by pumpkin peeps).

(And if you have some Snickers or other candy bars to use up, check out my Baked Snickers Empanada!)

Happy Halloween!
CANDY CORN PANCAKES
Pancake Batter Adapted from The Sweets Life
INGREDIENTS
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup quick oats
2 eggs
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2-2 cups milk
Nonstick spray
3/4-1 cup candy corn, chopped
Maple syrup or honey, for topping
DIRECTIONS
In a food processor or blender, combine flour, oats, eggs, light brown sugar, salt, baking powder, vailla extract, and milk.  Start with only a portion of the milk, adding more as needed.  Process until smooth.  Transfer to a measuring cup with a spout. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium high heat.  Pour a batch of batter into the pan, allowing time for batter to spread before pouring more.  Sprinkle chopped candy corn on top.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Flip and cook 1 minute.  Remove from pan and keep warm.  Repeat with remaining batter.
Top with warm maple syrup or honey if desired.

Baked Snickers Empanada

One of the toughest things moving from my family home where someone was always around to an apartment by myself is a few moments of loneliness that crop up occasionally.  One sure way to cure any feeling of loneliness is an empanada.  An empanada filled with peanut butter and a candy bar to be specific.  Also, my parents left me a huge bag of Snickers after moving me in, and they were torturing me just sitting in my refrigerator.

These empanadas are inspired by a favorite restaurant in Houston, Marini’s Empanada House.  I had tried making empanadas before, but I had definite problems with the dough.  It was just off.  So I went searching through the Internet and came across a new recipe.  And it turned out perfect- flakey, salty, and buttery.  The only downside is that it needs to chill for about 2 hours, but I promise it is so worth the wait.

These dessert empanadas are a sweet and salty treat that you can’t live without.  Dare I say it, but my homemade version is even better than what I’ve had at Marini’s.

Also, please excuse my slightly subpar photos.  I am still trying to get used to my new apartments lack of lighting, and I was also in a huge hurry to eat these bad boys.  I may just have to force myself ot make another batch and eat them again. I lead a tough life.

BAKED SNICKERS EMPANADA
Crust Slightly Adapted from Handle the Heat
INGREDIENTS
For the Crust:
1 cup water
6 ounces butter (about 12 tablespoons)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup peanut butter
20 mini Snickers bars
DIRECTIONS
For the Crust:
In a small saucepan combine water and butter.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.
In a bowl combine flour and salt.  Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms.  Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap.  Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk.  Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferrably 2 hours.
For the Empanadas:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Divide the dough into 20 pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter in the center of each piece of dough. Place a mini Snickers on top of the peanut butter.  Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape.  Crimp closed with a fork.  Place on lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool slightly before eating.
Makes 16 empanadas.