Peppermint Bark: A Holiday Treat with Bite.

bark 3

I love peppermint bark.

I look forward to eating it every Christmas. I am not sure why I haven’t ever tried making it myself before now, especially knowing just how much I love it. Maybe I thought it wouldn’t hold up against all the other barks I’ve eaten over the years, and my baking ego would henceforth be crushed. Whatever the reason, I decided it was a dumb one, and I went ahead and made it this year.

A whole pan of peppermint.

A whole pan of peppermint.

I greased an 8×8 pan, and then covered it with wax paper. I melted up some semi-sweet milk chocolate, crushed a bunch of candy canes, and then topped it with melted white chocolate (and more crushed candy canes). Then I let it refrigerate until it set. Next, I broke it up into random-sized pieces, and served.

bark with bite.

bark with bite.

It was as delicious as any bark I’ve had before it. The problem now is that I have so much of it. Resistance is futile.

Mummies and Spiders and Eyes, Oh My!


I made some Halloween cupcakes today, for no real reason or purpose, other than it’s almost Halloween and I felt like being creative. I baked up two dozen apple caramel cupcakes, which, although quite tasty, kinda reminded me of that apple cinnamon oatmeal from the pouch I used to eat as a kid. In this case, the cupcakes were to serve more as a canvas anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned, and besides, I liked that oatmeal. I decided to do four different Halloween-ish designs.

Design #1: Pumpkin.

the obvious choice.

the obvious choice.

I had recently made these same cupcakes for a wedding, and I still had some of the candy corn pumpkins left over, and I wanted to put them to some good use. So I did.

Design #2: Mummies.

mummy is so yummy.

mummy is so yummy.

A friend had posted a pic of similar cupcake mummies to my facebook page, and I thought they were just so darn cute, I had to try them myself.

Design #3: Spiders.

is that a spider on your cupcake?

is that a spider on your cupcake?

I had done these a few years ago, but with mini Oreos. All I had were a bunch of regular Oreos in the cabinet, so I opted to try these using those this time, instead. Plus, I had a tub of cookies and cream frosting leftover from that same wedding a couple weeks ago (I made Oreo cupcakes for it as well), so I busted it out,slathered it on, and slapped a giant killer Oreo Spider on top.

Design #4: Eyeballs.

Eat with your eyes...

eat with your eyes…

I was thinking of these the other day when I was telling a friend I made eyeball cupcakes like 6 years ago, using a green lifesaver for the retina. I had no lifesavers, but I did have a ton of light purple icing…so that happened.

All in all, I think they turned out pretty cute, and I think I’ll bring them in to work to share with my coworkers on Halloween. Let’s just hope they all liked that cinnamon oatmeal in the pouch as much as I did growing up….

taste like...oatmeal?

tastes like…oatmeal?

Home Grown Irish Potatoes.


Ok, so these “potatoes” are actually not grown. They’re not even actually potatoes. They just kinda look like them. Mini potato lookalikes, that taste nothing like their larger counterpart. Nope, there is really nothing potato-like about Irish Potatoes other than an odd bumpy oval-ish shape and a brown coloring (which on the Irish Potato, is cinnamon, not skin).

cinnamon skin.

cinnamon skin.

Irish Potatoes are actually very similar in ingredients and method of production to buttercream icing. Both involve creaming together butter and confectioner’s sugar, but Irish Potatoes also include a bit of cream cheese and some coconut. Two of my favorite things.

potato mixing.

potato or buttercream?

They are also a stiffer consistency then the buttercream icing you’d want to use on your cake. They need to be, so they can be rolled into the classic potato shape they’re named for.

rolled and ready.

rolled and ready.

As I mentioned before, once they’re shaped, they are rolled in a bowl of cinnamon, and completely coated.

cinnamon rolled.

cinnamon rolled.

Finally, they are put in the fridge to set (about an hour or so should do the trick).

potato chillin'.

potato chillin’.

As far as actual recipe goes, I used a traditional Irish Potato recipe that I’ve had floating around for a few years and have used in the past with much success. It went a little something like this:

Irish Potato Candy.

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter (softened)

4 oz cream cheese (about half a package)

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 1/2 cups coconut

cinnamon for coating

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until fluffy and icing-like. Add the coconut, and beat until well-blended. Roll into walnut-sized potato-shaped ovals. Roll each in a small bowl of cinnamon, until completely covered. Chill for about an hour. Eat and enjoy!


Oh, (Pumpkin) Fudge.

pumpkin fudge

I mean this both literally, and figuratively.

I made fudge the other day – pumpkin fudge, to be specific. I was excited – I found the recipe on, and it sounded amazing and looked pretty easy, especially with my pastry school background. Well, one can never be too confident.

As I moved through the stages of the recipe, things seemed to be going fine Рalthough each step took forever РI wondered if maybe I was doing something wrong Рbut I came to learn later that was actually the one thing I was doing right. The mixture finally reached 232 degrees, and I stirred in the spices. And here, is where I dropped the hubcap full of lug nuts Р instead of patiently waiting for the mixture to cool on its own to 110 (which seemed to be taking an ETERNITY, especially after already having waited and waited and waited for it to finally become hot enough), I decided to place the bowl over an ice bath. BIG MISTAKE. It sure did speed up the cooling process, but it made the end result more like pumpkin caramel than fudge.

soft and chewy pumpkin... caramel?

soft and chewy pumpkin… caramel?

So, in the end, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. At the same time, it was still pretty good – good enough where I’d intentionally do this again to yield the same result. It tasted like concentrated pumpkin pie squares.

pumpkin pie bites.

pumpkin pie bites.

And seriously, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? I’ll just have to keep the fact that it was supposed to be fudge a secret. ūüėČ

The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #3: Leonidas.


After leaving Planet Chocolat (stop #2), I decided to do some quick site-seeing on my way to stop #3, and pay a visit to the most famous little icon in Brussels Рthe one, they only, Manneken Pis.

the city mascot.

the city mascot.

Manneken Pis (also known as “The Peeing Boy”) is a must-see for anyone visiting Brussels. Much like the Mona Lisa, he is small and unassuming, and you’d almost walk right past him without even seeing him, if not for the gaggle of tourists constantly buzzing about, taking his picture (myself included). I heard that he sometimes is dressed in costume, and I was hoping I’d get lucky, but alas, the Manneken Pis was donning only his birthday suit during my visit. Maybe that is considered lucky.

Anyway, once again proper planning and plotting worked in my favor, and stop #3 just happened to be right across the street from the boy wonder. So I took my pictures, and crossed over, to:

Stop #3: Leonidas.


It’s a chain. A chocolate shop chain. They were all over the city. But I had heard good things, so I wanted to include it on the tour – I do not discriminate when it comes to chocolate. So I chose the one in the most touristy part of town, and headed in. It was on the small side, and almost could have been a shop back in the States, based on looks alone. I scanned the displays, seeing what caught my eye.

there's no wrong decision here.

there’s no wrong decision here.

All I can say is nothing jumped out at me, but I wanted everything, if that makes sense. There was no “star of show” or “breakout sensation” like there was in some of the other shops. No, here in Leonidas, this was an ensemble cast – all equally talented and together, could win best picture.

a chorus line.

a chorus line.

So, I did what any chocolate lover who couldn’t make a decision would do – I bought a mixed box.

pretty as a present.

pretty as a present.

It was already wrapped – so I had no idea what was inside, which made it all the more fun! Honestly, it’s virtually impossible to get a bad piece of chocolate in Brussels, so I really wasn’t too concerned. I kept the box sealed and kept it secret and safe until later that day, when I returned to my hotel, and had the grand unveiling.

you never know what you're gonna get.

you never know what you’re gonna get.

Can you believe my luck??? Now, I just had to decide what to eat first. That red glittery piece definitely was calling to me, so I started with that. Marzipan!! It was Marzipan!! I love Marzipan. This was going great. I ate another one, because, I mean, I had to try some actual chocolate from the joint, so I went with one of the chocolate coins. Oh l’amour! Chain as it was, Leonidas’ chocolate could still hang with the best of them. Definitely worth checking out, and very convenient for tourists (if you’re into that sort of thing). ūüėČ

To be continued in the next post: Stop #4: Chocopolis ‚Äď it’s big, it’s bad, it’s got chocolate beer bottles.


Recipe Wednesday: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.



So before I get into the Chocolate Shop Tour of Brussels, I really wanted to share this recipe for the cookies I made last night, not only because they turned out so good, but also because I feel I’ve been neglecting the kitchen lately, having not baked anything for almost 3 weeks, and neglecting the kitchen means neglecting sharing recipes; and as we all know sharing is caring. So because I care, I made Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

The only problem was that I couldn’t decide if i should use regular Reese’s cups or the Reese’s hearts. Valentine’s Day is not so far off, so the hearts seemed appropriate, however, I wanted to make sure that upon first glance, one could tell these were peanut butter cup cookies. So, when in doubt, use both and just make more cookies.

When all was said and done, I had about half of them that were the classic “cup”…

the cup we all know and love.

the cup we all know and love.

….and half that were a chocolate and peanut butter homage to love.

melt my heart.

melt my heart.

I started with a recipe from¬†The Hershey’s Cookbook¬†for those peanut butter Hershey’s Kiss Cookies. I made a few minor adjustments, swapped the kiss with the cup (or heart), and created a cookie masterpiece for peanut butter cup lovers everywhere. ¬†Beware: the dough is a little bit TOO good. I believe I may have eaten about 4 cookies worth of dough before I even started baking them. Hopefully, you’ll have a bit more restraint than I. ūüôā


Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

What you’ll need:

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup shortening

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

48 mini Reese’s cups or Reese’s hearts (or some combo of the two totaling 48)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the peanut butter and shortening. Add in the sugar and brown sugar, and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add egg, half and half, and vanilla, and mix well. In a ¬†separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture, 1/3 at a time, beating well between each addition. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and using a small ice-cream scoop, scoop and shape the dough into one inch balls. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until they start to brown around the edges. While they are baking unwrap your chocolates, so you have them on hand and ready to go. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, start pressing the cups/hearts into the cookies (they will crack around the edges – that’s ok). Remove them from the baking sheet, and let them cool completely.



Choco Peeps.

A few years back, probably about 5 years ago, I decided that I was going to bring chocolate covered Peeps to Easter dinner. In theory, it sounded fantastic – two of my all time favorite things combined into one yummy treat. Well, it didn’t go so well. The chocolate was cheap, didn’t melt smoothly and didn’t taste all that great, and not to mention, they no longer even looked Peep-shaped. If i¬†had brought them to dinner with no explanation, everyone would have assumed they were just odd-shaped bumpy chocolates. Bah.

Anyway, one thing I learned in pastry school was how to work with chocolate. I’m by no means a master chocolatier¬†at this point, however, I once again attempted chocolate covered Peeps, and this time with great success! I sprinkled them with some shimmery sugar crystals, to give them that extra glow.

sparkly choco peeps.

They’ve retained their peep-like shape, and if one were to be presented with a box of these, I do believe they would be easily identifiable. The bad news is that because I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, I only made a few. The Choco Peep is an endangered species; eat them wisely.

On a side note, I had extra chocolate that I didn’t want to just throw away, so I covered two chocolate chip cookies with it. Now that’s what I call conservation.

why didn’t i think of this years ago??

You say Potato, I say…Candy?

I didn’t realize how easy Irish Potatoes were to make. I also didn’t realize that they were pretty much just a ball of coconut icing covered in cinnamon. I didn’t realize how much I love them. Funny what you don’t realize.

Anyway, I decided to make these this year for the first time. I had imagined they were difficult – not sure why, but possibly because no one I know ever seemed to make them, or discuss making them, so that just led me to subconsciously place them in the “hard to make” category. I was completely wrong. I admit it. I’m wrong sometimes.

Anyway, I had no recipe for these anywhere in any of my books at home, so I googled it, and found this recipe – I thought, “Gee, that sounds too easy. Let me make sure it’s actually the real deal.” So I checked out a few other links, and the recipes were all basically the same. So, I gave it a whirl.

They looked and tasted great. Better than I remembered even the ones in the box tasting! Not only were they super simple to make, they were fun too.

Simple. like Love.

Really good things don’t have to be complicated. We just often think they need to be.

super bon bon.


Yesterday, I had an intimate gathering of friends over for some grilling and chilling. There wound up being much more chilling than grilling, but that’s¬†another story (btw¬†– can someone teach me how to start up a gas grill, please?). Anyway, in lieu of this pending gathering, I thought it would be swell if I prepared a little dessert. I had chocolate on the brain, so I thought ice cream bon bons would be perfect! I had just recently seen a recipe for these in Food and Wine Magazine, and they looked tasty, and pretty simple, especially for someone who just completed a class solely dedicated to artisan chocolates. This recipe didn’t even call for the chocolate to be tempered, so there was no way to screw it up! Au contraire.

The guests were scheduled to arrive at 7. I figured these would take no time to prepare, so I began the bon bon¬†adventure around 6:30. The first batch of chocolate, I somehow ruined. I was able to squeak out one average-looking bon bon, but had to chuck the rest. Ok, sh*t happens, maybe I was rushing and got ahead of myself. Lets try this again. The problem was I didn’t have any of the high-quality chocolate left, and I assumed that because it didn’t have to be tempered anyway, I could just use the cheap crap.¬† My teacher would revoke my good grade if he only knew what I’d done. The chocolate melted unevenly, barely coated the bon bons, and wound up all over the counter, and myself.¬†I managed to make two more bon bons (if you could even dare to call them bon bons) with this mess.

sh*tty sh*tty bon bon.

At this point, is was about 7:20, and thankfully, all my guests were late. I decided to try one more time, with a random piece of chocolate I found in a bag. I was desperate. I don’t even know if what I was using was actual chocolate at this point. I mean, it tasted good, but it melted into a big blob, and was virtually unusable for all intents and purposes. That’s not to say to say I threw it out – like I said, it tasted good. I could use it for filling or mixed into a cake or something. I bagged it, and put in the fridge. At this point the doorbell rang, I had 3 barely bon bons, and everything was covered in chocolate. Awesome. The first thing my friend said when I let him in – “it smells really good in here – like chocolate!” At least some good came out of this.

I would not let these bon bons beat me, however. So we didn’t have them at the gathering. I still had something to prove. I know how to use chocolate. These easy ice cream bon bons will not crush my spirit! So, the next day, I tried again.

move aside, and let the man go through.

I had conquered the bon bon. Of course, it was when I was baking for no one. And now I have a freezer full of bon bons. So, yeah, if anyone can come teach me how to use a gas grill, there’s¬†bon bons in it for you. ūüėČ

come on, praline.

In technical terms, a praline¬†is a caramelized¬†nut, most often a hazelnut or almond; in not-so-technical terms, the word “praline” has come to be associated with not only caramelized¬†nuts, but nougat, ground praline¬†paste, and even chocolates made from praline¬†paste or with a praline¬†in/on top of them. So, you can see how one could go a little “nuts” trying to¬†keep all this straight. har har.

"real" pralines

Anyway, these are simple to make – basically you’re just caramelizing sugar with nuts in it. You can coat them with more sugar, or with cocoa powder…I guess with¬†other stuff too, although¬†that would make it non-traditional and possibly non-tasty.¬†But experimentation is the heart of baking, so do what cha like.

Humpty sure would.

Ok so the point is¬†(not Humpty’s¬†nose, either),¬† that¬†I made traditional¬†pralines, using almonds, and¬†coated them with powdered sugar. As delightful a snack¬†they were on their own, encased in a Belgian¬†truffle, they became down right irresistible.¬†And that’s a fact, ma’am.

simply irresistible.

So come on lets, make your own praline. Toora, loora, toora¬†loorye aye….