Desserts/Pastries

Almond-Whiskey Chocolate Bites

Almond Whiskey Chocolates
Want to know the best way to win people over?

Almond Whiskey Chocolates

With Chocolates…..

And Booze……

But better yet– with Chocolate AND Booze!!!

Almond Whiskey Chocolates
When I saw Sprinkle Bakes’ post about 5-Minute Bourbon Balls, I knew they were in my future.

Almond Whiskey Chocolates
Heather’s
recipe contains just a few ingredients and can be whipped up in minutes. Melted chocolate, honey, vanilla wafers, walnuts, and bourbon…. YES PLEASE!

Almond Whiskey Chocolates

I followed her recipe fairly close but used almonds instead of walnuts (I’m not that much of a walnut fan) though I’m sure they would be SPLENDIFEROUS with hazelnuts or pistachios as well. I also added a few splashes of vanilla extract and used whiskey since I was out of bourbon.

Though…aren’t all bourbons whiskey? But not all whiskeys are bourbon?

I won’t mind if you use either….or both!

Almond Whiskey Chocolates

Since you do not add heavy cream or milk, these bites wouldn’t technically be a “truffle” but heck–they’re lovely nonetheless and require no baking at all. Which during the craziness of the season can be a much needed break.

Added bonus? They can be made well in advance!

Almond Whiskey Chocolates

I’ll be making a few more dozen of these little bites for my family’s Christmas shindig and think they’d be a great addition to your holiday celebrations!

For the original recipe, please click here.

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Desserts/Pastries · Vietnamese

Celebrating Tết with Mứt Gừng (Vietnamese Candied Ginger)

Mứt Gừng (Vietnamese Candied Ginger)

 

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

That’s right, it’s Tết–the Vietnamese Lunar New Year! For Vietnamese folks, we are welcoming in the Year of the Cat. For our Chinese neighbors, it’s the Year of the Rabbit. 🙂

There are so many customs and traditions that go along with Tết–from making sure your house/home is clean, offering ancestral prayers and thanks, eating delicious food, playing games like bầu cua cá cọp, going to festivals and my personal favorite—getting lì xì (red envelopes of money to bring luck and good fortune).

Tết is a multiple day celebration—which means food galore! Bánh chưng (sticky rice cakes filled with meats, mung beans, etc.), Xôi (savory or sweet glutinous rice), Măng khô (braised bamboo shoots), and all sorts of Mứt (preserved/candied vegetables and fruits).

And although the trays of Mứt always had a wide variety of fruits, veggies, & nuts to choose from (coconut, lotus seeds, persimmons, mandarins, etc.), my favorite was Mứt Gừng —candied or crystallized ginger which my grandmother made all of the time.

 

Mứt Gừng (Vietnamese Candied Ginger)

 

The thin slices of candied ginger are not only yummy but they can be used for health ailments too. Nausea or motion sickness can often be curtailed by chewing/sucking on Mứt Gừng and next time you have a cough, forgo the drops and grab a bag of Mứt Gừng instead. You can also filter the boiling water used to cook the ginger into a calming ginger tea. All natural! And as for baking, I’ve also used this Candied Ginger in my Scones and to top Spiced Cupcakes. So many options!

I want to give a big THANKS to my cousin An for giving me a tutorial on Mứt Gừng—the woman even took step by step pics on her phone for me. Now that’s a trooper—-although I’m not sure how she’ll feel about me adding the lemon zest. 🙂

So allow me to wish you all an extremely happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

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Mứt Gừng (Vietnamese Candied Ginger)
Makes approximately one pound

Ingredients:

1 Pound Fresh Ginger
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice, divided
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Peel the ginger, removing any blemishes from the root and then place in the bowl of water until all pieces have been peeled. Using a mandoline with its thinnest plate, slice the ginger roots. Place the ginger slices in the bowl of water until all have been cut.

Fill a large pot with water and the rest of the lemon juice. Transfer the ginger slices to the pot and bring to a boil. While the ginger is boiling, spray two cooling racks with nonstick spray and place them on cookie sheets that have been lined with foil. Cook the ginger for 25 minutes, skimming off any impurities that may build up. Drain the slices in a colander and flush with cool tap water. Rinse the ginger 2 or 3 times and shake off excess water. Use paper towels to dry the ginger slices off well.

In a large pan over medium-low heat, add the ginger slices with sugar. Use chopsticks to coat the slices with sugar. Continue to stir as the sugar begins to melt and bubble. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Continue cooking and stirring the ginger until the liquid has evaporated and the sugar has crystallized onto the slices. This process takes about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer the slices to the cooling racks. Be sure to spread the slices into one even layer—flatten out any slices that may have folded over or curled up. Allow an hour for the slices to completely dry. Store in Ziploc bags or other airtight containers.

Desserts/Pastries

Chocolate Lollipops–A Trifecta of Holiday Goodness!

Chocolate Lollipops

Hello Dear Friends!

First and foremost, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season! Thus far, mine has been chopped full of quality family time, good eats—and plenty of vino! And let’s be honest…what more could a gal ask for? 🙂

Well, perhaps the gift of “saving time”. And wouldn’t you know it? These “Chocolate Lollipops” are just the trick!

Inspired by the most recent special of the Barefoot Contessa in London, I whipped up (with the wonderful help of my fab nieces) these quick and easy Chocolate Lollipops. The whole process took us less than 15 minutes. True Story.

And the end result?

A Trifecta of Holiday Goodness!

Planning a little soiree? These Chocolate Lollipops will serve as:

  1. A lovely decor/centerpiece when packaged with ribbons and bundled in a vase,
  2. A deluxe party favor for your guests when they leave,
  3. and Of course, a DELISH Treat!

Another NGUYEN-WIN SITUATION! 🙂

Happy Holidays Friends!

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Chocolate Lollipops
Makes Approximately 2 Dozen Pops

Ingredients:

6 Ounces Quality Chocolate (either white, milk, dark, or mixed–your preference)
1/2 Cup Dried Fruits or Chopped Nuts (completely your preference)
2 Dozen Lollipop Sticks

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a double boiler method, melt the chocolate stirring slowly until smooth. Remove from heat. Spoon one tablespoon of the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper. Try to do this evenly to form a round circle. Lay the lollipop stick 1/3-1/2 inch into the chocolate circle. Sprinkle with your choice of chopped nuts and/or dried fruit. Repeat process until all your chocolate is used. Set aside the cookie sheets in a cool area and allow 2-3 hours to harden. Once firm, carefully peel the lollipops from the parchment paper. The pops can be packaged with cellophane and tied with a decorative bow.

**The photo shown above features both white chocolate and 60% chocolate with dried cranberries and crushed pistachio nuts.

Enjoy!

Desserts/Pastries

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

 

Need an easy and delicious treat for the holidays? This is it—seriously.

Every Holiday season I make batches of this White Chocolate Peppermint Bark–not only because how quick it comes together but it’s darn delicious! Creamy, minty and lightly crunchy from the peppermint bits. Package them in festive holiday tins with colorful ribbons and BADA-BING, BADA-BOOM….Fabulously Yummy Gifts.

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White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

12 Ounces Quality White Chocolate, chopped
½ Cup Peppermint Candy, crushed
½ Teaspoon Peppermint Extract

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon mat. Place peppermint candy in a plastic bag. With a kitchen mallet, break up the candy into small pieces.

Using a double boiler method, melt the white chocolate stirring slowly until smooth. Remove from heat and quickly mix in the candy and extract. Pour melted chocolate onto the cookie sheet. Using a rubber spatula, spread out the chocolate evenly across the parchment paper until it is approximately ¼ inch thick. Holding each side of the cookie sheet, lightly rap on the counter to remove any possible air bubbles. Set aside the cookie sheet in a cool area and allow 2-3 hours to harden. Once firm, break the bark into large pieces and serve. Bark should be stored in airtight containers to maintain freshness.

 


Desserts/Pastries

Peppermint Crisps = Confidence Boost

Peppermint Crisps

 

Today was one of those days in the kitchen. You know what I’m talking about….those days where everything you attempt seems to go to heck in a handbag. It started at about 7:30am and after 4 failed desserts/pastries, I finally had to throw in the towel at about 1:00pm. I won’t get into the details of every misadventure but it was bad. Really bad.

Yes, I was the epitome of a Hot Mess.

But then I took a look at my nieces who I had promised a full day of baking to and decided to put on my big girl panties and get back into the kitchen. Their Cô Nam (auntie) is no quitter!

Since I was nursing a little bruised spirit, I opted for a sweet treat that required no “baking” and few ingredients. Hey—I was trying to increase my odds for success to end the day off in a good note. 🙂

Luckily, The Galley Gourmet recently posted a recipe for “Peppermint Crisps” and they looked delectable. A few hours later and HALLELUJAH–we did it! A bright treat after a tumultuous morning.

These little guys are perfect for a “late afternoon pick-me-up” or as a small goodie to end off a meal. Wonderfully minty with the delicious finish of chocolate. Pair it with a hot cup of tea or glass of dry red wine and you’ll be a happy camper.

PHEW!!! Victory at last!

Life lesson of the day….Humility is best served alongside a piece of chocolate 🙂

Note: A tin full of these minty bites would make a wonderful gift for the holidays!

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Peppermint Crisps
From The Galley Gourmet
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch crisps

Ingredients:

½ Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Water
1½ Teaspoons Peppermint Extract, divided
4 Ounces Dark Chocolate, chopped
4 Ounces Milk Chocolate, chopped
¼ Cup Shredded Unsweetened Coconut

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.  Over medium heat dissolve the sugar.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring until the mixture turns a light caramel color, about 7-9 minutes.  Halfway through wipe the sides of the pan down with a damp pastry brush to remove and crystallization.  Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of the peppermint extract.  Swirl the pan to distribute the extract.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and set aside for 15 minutes or until completely hardened and cooled.  Break the hardened peppermint sugar into shards and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse to break up the large pieces, then process until it resembles fine sand.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chocolates in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Remove from the microwave and stir.  If not melted, return to the microwave and cook for an additional 30 seconds.  Stir and repeat if necessary until the chocolate is completely melted.  Once melted, stir in the coconut, remaining peppermint extract and the processed peppermint sugar.  Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.  Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate into a 10×8-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.  Holding the parchment to the baking sheet, gently rap the baking sheet on the counter to even the surface.  Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to harden the chocolate, about 1 hour.

Remove from the refrigerator and let rest for 5 minutes.  Gently transfer the parchment to a cutting surface. Using a 1 1/2-inch circle cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can.  Reserve the scraps for nibbling or fold into your favorite ice cream.  Store in an airtight container in a cool location or in the refrigerator for a cool peppermint taste.  Enjoy!