Marshmallow and Cashew Popcorn

A while back I said I’d be experimenting more with popcorn and candy, and I that wasn’t a lie. This is the result of that epic essai.

First of all, to make something this tasty you have to pop your own popcorn. It’s not very hard and it’s really easy to turn it into something you really want instead of a buttery, artery-clogging pile of puffed corn.

I started with:
A tall stock pot (nothing out of the ordinary)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
Enough veggie oil to cover the bottom of the pan

Then cover the pan and heat on medium. As it’s cooking, shake occasionally and when the loud, scary popping noises become less frequent (when only one *pop* happens every 3-5 seconds) take it off the burner. I like to give it another good shake before talking off the lid. And then, wha-bam:

Isn’t it amazing?

Yes.

So what makes this special: before enjoying this wondrous bounty, I put it on a baking sheet mixed with marshmallows and cashews with a sprinkle of salt.

After the request of my roommate, I decided to put nutella on half before baking.

With the oven preheated to 275, make for 10 minutes, check, then 10 minutes again. The marshmallows on top get hard and dry, kind of crisp like the kind in cereal while the marshmallow under some popcorn becomes gooey and wonderful.

I ate all of it almost immediately.

Chocolate Dipped Goodness

This is something fun to do with somebody. They don’t always turn out pretty, but you’re going to have fun making them. A popular choice is, of course,

strawberries, but lots of fruit work great, as well as some candies.

There are different ways you can present the strawberries. One of my favorite ways to cut up a strawberry is like this:

Don’t cut off the leaves, and cut small slits up to near the very top. Try to make all the slits an equal distance from another, and when you’re done cutting, just spread them apart gently.

If you can manage it, they look really nice drizzled with chocolate. But they’re great just left alone too.

And before I went too crazy with the chocolate, I lined the counter with wax paper.

That way I had a big, flat surface to rest the strawberries and candies on while they cooled and hardened. Also it was really easy to clean.

Then I melted my chocolate on the stove, over low heat, stirring constantly. There are other methods, like double boiling, or microwaving, but I find this one to be the most convenient for me.

One thing you need to watch out for is wet fruit. I didn’t and so my chocolate seized up and got really ugly and hard to work with. The first few strawberries were perfect, but after 3 or so, I had to turn to other methods. You can avoid this by having a paper towel handy to dry off the fruit before dipping it.

There are lots of creative things you can do with chocolate. I can’t believe nobody’s thought of dipped marshmallows before.

I also dipped some peppermints and cinnamon imperials. One thing that’s super tasty but that I didn’t have on hand is Oreos. Dipped Oreos are incredible.

You can also try to incorporate the candy onto the strawberries.

All the things I’m playing with, including the chocolate, is stuff I had in the pantry from when I made Hot chocolate a little while back. Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff to make neat little desserts, chances are you’ll have something you can work with right in your pantry.

Once my chocolate seized up, I reheated it with a tablespoon of butter–I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but it made it more malleable. After that, we couldn’t get it to stick to the berries, so we started making shapes.

Here’s a cinnamon imperial chocolate:

And some hearts

This is something you can really have fun with. I literally made this with my boyfriend, standing in the kitchen, getting our fingers all chocolaty, and it was nice. Also, later when it cooled (and before it cooled) it was really tasty.

Ganache Truffles

Candy is pretty much a must on this holy of holy days, so here’s something fun to try out. I’ve also got a couple previous candy recipes that could be customized for Valentines Day–heart shaped toffee, candy roses, and some yummy hot chocolate–especially since this year’s V Day seems like it will be a cold one.

And presents always mean more when you make them yourself, so have fun with it!

For this, all you need is:
Chocolate (2 parts)
Heavy whipping cream (1 part)
Sweetened coco powder

I was taught to make this by a candy snob, so he insisted we use the expensive chocolate.

We used a mix of bittersweet chocolate and semisweet, but you can play around with this if you have more of a sweet tooth.

First you need to start off by chopping it up finely so that it melts nicely.

And set it aside. It would work best for later if you have it in a big, freezer-safe container. (You have to let it cool later, so the more spread out it is, the faster it cools–we used a 2 quart sauce pan and it took 3 hours.)

In a sauce pan, heat your cream until it boils. When it’s there, pour it into the chocolate and stir until it’s all melted and smooth.

Now it’s time to cool it. Like I mentioned earlier, the container for the chocolate matters. The thinner the layer of chocolate you have the better. For what we made–two bars of chocolate, I think a standard 9 x 13 baking pan would do the trick. The more spread out the chocolate is, the faster it will cool.

Once it’s solid enough that you can hold the container upside down, but still soft enough to be malleable, take it out and start rolling. You can scoop some out with a spoon or just use your hands. Be sure to wash your hands before this step, and make sure you don’t have anything else going on for the next few minutes because you will get covered in chocolate.

When they’re the proper shape, roll them around the coco powder.

And them let them sit. We happened to have a bunch of mini cupcake papers, so we put them in there. If you don’t have any, don’t worry; the coco powder will stop them from recombining, as long as they don’t get hot.

Hot Chocolate

This is something good for how cold it’s been lately, and you can get pretty creative with it. I made three different flavors using candy. I’m not sure which was my favorite between cinnamon imperials and peppermints, but the peanut butter was good too. It’s a little heavier but still tasty.

All three start with the same idea, get the candy into tiny bits. Cutting up the peanut butter cups does alright, and for the dry ones, a mortar and pestle set works well.

Next you need to melt it. I highly recommend a non stick pan for this job. Also, a little bit of milk helps. Not too much, you just want barely enough for the candy to dissolve in.

And once that’s ready, start adding chocolate. Only a little at first, though.

I guess you want about equal parts candy and chocolate to start with, but definitely add more before it’s over. The amount of chocolate you need will change based on how many people will be drinking it and by how strong you want it to taste. If you’re not afraid of having left overs, add extra.

For both of these melting processes, I just used a pan on the stove. But if you’re worried about burning it, set up a double boiler system. I did it when I made fondue a while back. But like I said, this time I didn’t bother. I kept the fire on a med-low heat and moved the pan around–when I was worried, I just took it off the stove. I also stirred constantly. The double boiler system is less demanding. But it’s harder to set up and there’s more clean up, so it’s a trade-off.

Once the chocolate is completely melted, add your milk. This should also be done a little at a time and you should constantly taste it to make sure it’s warm enough and has the right flavor.

I like mine to be served a little too hot to drink, that way it warms your hand and builds anticipation, but you don’t have to heat it quite that long if you don’t want.

And there’s tons of extras you can add at the end. Marshmallows or whipped cream on top are always favorites. Or you can put some of the whole candy in the bottom of the cup. It’ll slowly melt and strengthen the flavor. (By the way, peppermints make popping noises when you do this, it’s kind of neat.) One thing my mom used to do was make milk ice cubes before hand, that way if it was too hot, we could drop one of those in without messing up the flavor. It was a great idea and I think I’m going to experiment with those and frozen drinks once it warms up…