How to Fill Hard Candy

You can’t make the “remember those strawberry candies that are hard on the outside then have that awesome strawberry stuff in the middle” without filling some hard candy. Over all it’s not too hard, but it does take a while. Luckily it’s really passive, though.

For this specific example, I used our honey hard candy and http://imakefood.net/2010/10/candided-jalapenos-and-strawberries/.

And to fill hard candy, you pretty much just need to make your first batch the same way as in the honey hard candy article and fill the molds halfway.

We had the mold sitting in ice so that it would cool faster, but that’s optional. If there’s any candy leftover in the pan, try to keep it warm (on 1 or 2) until you’re ready to bring it to temp again.

When the candy’s hard, fill it with whatever you want. In our case, candied strawberries. It was kind of tough, so what we ended up doing was gathering an amount of strawberry then plopping it in the candy shell. Sometimes it was too big, but most of the time it wasn’t. But since this was a first-time experience, we didn’t fret.

Once that was settled, we reheated the leftover candy (which then burned, so we made another, smaller batch) and poured on the bottoms.

It was so incredibly tasty. You have no idea.

Honey Hard Candy

This is part two of the making of “remember those strawberry candies that are hard on the outside then have that awesome strawberry stuff in the middle:” the hard candy shell. Part one was the filling. It’s got a slightly different taste from normal hard candy because instead of corn syrup, we used honey, plus there was a little left-over heat in the pan from the jalapenos. And even on it’s own this candy has such a good flavor, I have to say I like it a lot more than the other ones we’ve made.

For this you’ll need:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/s cup water

Keep in mind that it’s the proportions that matter, not the amount. So if you don’t want to make that much, you don’t have to.

Start by combining the ingredients in a saucepan, warm it over medium heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Next stick in the thermometer and wait.

While that’s going, bring a small pan of water to simmer on an extra burner. When the water’s warm, use a pastry brush dipped in the warm water to clean the sides of the pan with the soon-to-be candy in it. Here, and for the mold, silicon works best.

This stops the undissolved sugars from interfering with the crystallization process in the soon-to-be candy.

Because we want to make hard candy, we’ll have to let it warm all the way up to 300 degrees. It’s best to do this kind of slowly, so I’d recommend lowering the heat to a 3 and setting short timers to go and look at the candy. That way you don’t have to just stand there waiting. Also, when it’s on a lower heat, there’s less chance that it will try to overflow, which is a good thing because you’re not supposed to stir it while it’s warming up.

If you have molds, now would be the time to prep them. For mine, I put a thin layer of some as-close-to-tasteless-as-I-could-find oil on the mold to stop the candy from sticking.

You may recognize the mold as the one I used for madeleines. It’s made of a silicon that can withstand high heat, so it’s perfect for things like this. I wouldn’t dare use my metal one, though. I don’t think I’d be able to get the candy out.

When the candy’s reached temperature, turn off the heat, get the mold as close to the pot as possible, and using the same pastry brush from earlier, start filling.

If you don’t have a mold, no worries. Another thing you can do is prepare a baking sheet in a similar matter (with the non-stick oil) and drop dollops of candy on, or make designs with a fork. I made a sort of cotton candy with some of the leftovers by getting a string of candy on two forks then rotating them around each other. Molds are probably the easiest thing do to, but they are by no means the only thing you can use. When we made nougat, we used the leftover candy to make candy thread and small beads. At that point we were just playing around, but it tasted really good.

Candided Jalapenos (and strawberries)

For some reason, the jalapenos turned out much prettier than the strawberries. Both tasted good, it’s just that it’s weird when your fruit looks like beached jellyfish. That’s not to say that the strawberries were a complete failure, though; they made a great filling for a candy that I’m going to talk about later on. But the weirdest thing about then wasn’t how they looked but how they tasted. Once you make candied fruit you understand why fruit candies don’t taste like fruit–they’re the concentrated super sweet version of fruit.

To candy fruit all you need is
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Fruit
2 hours

To start, slice the fruit. No so thin that they fall apart, but nice and bite-sized thin.


Then combine the water and sugar in a saucepan then heat and stir until the sugar’s dissolved. Once that’s ready, toss in the fruit and let it simmer for two hours.

They syrup would be good to use for other candies or for pancakes, so if you have the means, strain the fruit and keep the syrup in an old pasta sauce jar or something.

When the fruit’s strained, let it sit in the open air to dry a little.

(See I told you they look like jellyfish. But they taste super good.)

You also want to stop them from touching, if possible, that way they don’t make clumps.

Once they’ve dried for a while, you’re done!

Personally, I like candied jalapenos, but they are super spicy. We boiled them along side habaneros which only made things hotter. But if you like spicy treats or Mexican candies you might really like this. But if you’re afraid, this is the same technique to make other candied fruits. Lemons and oranges taste really good when made this way, and you can even eat the peel!

Birthday Tarts

I’ve never really liked birthday cake. It’s sacrilege, I know, but there’s something so sickly sweet and terrible about the birthday cake and all that icing on top of it that just really turns me away from it. Don’t get me wrong; there’s always a time and a place for cake, just not on my birthday.

Because of this, at the joint birthday parties my sister and I would have, there’d sometimes be some alternative like a gigantic cookie cake or ice cream cake, but sometimes it was just so easy to go the the grocery store bakery and pick something up.

But a few years ago I moved in with my mom and for my 15th birthday we made this.

It was awesome. And ever since I haven’t been content with just any cake. It may seem silly, but at the same time I don’t care what you think! Hahaha. And for the most part I’ve been making my own birthday desserts, so it all works out.

One thing that’s hit me and really stuck was the tart.

For the longest time I’ve been making these with my mom and sister. We always followed the Martha Stewart recipes for the crust and the filling, but this time I wanted to try to make my own recipe. (Part was due to the desire to create from absolutely nothing, not even a recipe, part was due to the laziness encountered when faced with the task of looking up the recipe.)

I started off by selecting and preparing some fruit that I thought would go well together and look nice.

I chose blackberries, strawberries, kiwis, dragon fruit, raspberries and blueberries. Good stuff.

And for the crust, I used:
1/4 cup sugar (you can use less or none at all, as you wish)
2 cups flour
8 oz cream cheese
1 tbs water

This makes enough for one 9inch round plus a little extra. I used my handy-dandy stand mixer (thanks mom!)

to mix the dough but any sort of mixer (or even your hands) would work fine. You want it to have the consistency of a crumbly cookie dough.

I just put it in the pan and flattened it out with my hands, but it would also work if you rolled it out first. That’d probably look really nice, but at the same time, it’s about to be covered with cream so it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t bake it, I wanted to see how it would come out as is. So I just set it in the fridge to get harder and cold while I did the next parts. (I think I’m going to try baking it later, maybe into a pear-tart, mmm.)

***UPDATE***
So I tried baking them this time. They came out kind of crunchy and nice, so I definitely recommend it. If you want it to be flakier and lighter, try adding a little butter. Maybe even replacing some of the cream cheese for butter.
I preheated and baked at 360-375 (my oven’s not super accurate) for about 25 minutes. I checked on them every 5, so that may have let out a bunch of heat, thereby making it take a bit longer than it should have. They brown a little, but not very much; you don’t want them to be golden all over, just some on the edges. (If they cook too long they get kind of too hard.)
***

Next I made the filling. It was very simple and light because it doesn’t use cream cheese like a lot of other fillings I’m used to making.

It calls for:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (powdered would be best, but in all honesty I used granulated)
16 oz cottage cheese (small curd)
1 tbs vanilla

Similarly, just whip until it’s whip-creamy. I think I got up to the 6th speed setting, and maybe let it sit there a few minutes. But you can play around with it some, like stop it for a “quality control taste test,” if needed.

Then when that’s done, just plop the whipped cream onto the tart shell, flatten it out with a spatula, and start decorating.

I had a couple of friends help me decorate, which explains the variety of designs. This is really one of those tangible manifestations of food-ing as a social thing. It’s nice when people can get together over something playful and delicious like this.

Peach Ice Cream

I didn’t make this recipe up myself, it came from Martha Stewart. For the most part. We did make some changes, but they were very minimal.

Here’s what you need (aside from an ice cream maker):
3-4 large ripe peaches
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 yolk
1 cup and 1 tbs heavy whipping cream

This is one of those things you can definitely have going on in the background; there’s a lot of waiting. The first thing you need to do is cut up the peaches. Honestly, the smaller the better, but we didn’t worry to much and eventually resorted to the blender. Then, combine the peaches, lemon juice, and only 1/2 cup of the sugar in a bowl and let it sit for 2 hours.

See what I mean about waiting–and that’s not even all of it.

When that’s done, it’s time to add the vanilla and milk. At this point you can either blend it or potato mash it. Turns out mom conveniently didn’t have a potato masher, so…

Then let that sit for another half hour.

After that, beat the egg and yolk with an electric mixer until they’re well mixed, then add the rest of the sugar (1/4 cup). When that’s all nice and blended, add in the creamy peach mixture.

While that’s finishing up, have a friend prepare the ice cream maker. (You’ll know it’s ready when the penguin shows up.)

Then when everything’s just right, pour the pre-ice cream into the ice cream maker and let it make for a couple hours until it’s done.

We made whipped cream to go with it using the leftover cream. It was super good and yummy.

And as per Martha‘s recommendations, serve in a goblet.

And this recipe works really well for all sorts of fruit, we’ve tried it with different kinds and none have disappointed.

Peach-stravaganza!

Though I don’t have pictures of everything (my camera broke part way through the trip and I haven’t been able to recover all the pictures) I’ll tell you about everything we made with mom’s peaches.

First of all, grilling peaches is awesome. We cut them in half and pitted them, then made a sauce with honey, water, and soy sauce to flavor them, then grilled them until they got soft. Sooo good. Especially with tuna (I love tuna and fruit together–apple tuna sushi is great).

(No picture for the moment, unfortunately)

We made four fresh fruit tarts.

Peach ice cream is one of the best fresh fruit ice creams you can make. It’s almost like they’re naturally creamy.

We always make cobbler with my grandma. Normally we use blueberries, but the peaches were too bountiful to not cook with.

And then, for something new, we made jam.

We also made a yummy salad and salad dressing with the peaches that was similar to the berry salad we made earlier in the summer.

I think that was everything we came up with, but my memory’s not so good without pictures to remind me. That’s why I take so many pictures. (If you knew me in real life, you’d know what I’m talking about.)

But! We’re going to have a similar situation next year, assuming the tree survives the hurricane season and the coming winter. There’s also going to be plums, which seem harder to deal with, according to me. So give me ideas!

Whipped Cream

This is so easy and tasty I can’t believe I haven’t posted it yet. It’s even something that you could probably make with what you’ve already got. We decided to make ours because we figured it’d go perfectly with our home made peach ice cream (Mom conveniently has an ice cream maker and a peach tree).

I wouldn’t make too much at once (unless you’re me), so I’d start off with:
A half cup heavy whipping cream
A couple tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

First pour your cream into a bowl and start whipping. The end, if you don’t want the sugar. (See, it’s super easy.)

We started off the hand mixer on one and didn’t get past 2. All the whipping only took a few minutes–I’d say less than five, but it’s more of a texture thing. Then if you want sugar, sprinkle that on top and fold it in with a spatula. Then scoop it onto whatever fabulous desert you want!

Stuffed Pork Chops

This is another idea inspired by something my mom said last time I was in town. It’s really simple and it’s a new way to handle pork chops.

Besides the normal seasonings (salt, pepper, and olive oil) all you need is:

Pork chops
And the white thing next to it, I don’t know the official name. I’ll call them mozzarella roll-ups. Basically imagine a sheet of mozzarella with prosciutto and basil layered on before rolling it all up together. In other words, super tasty. A lot of grocery stores carry them in the deli section, but if you can’t find any, you could easily replicate it with the three ingredients just being together.

Start by slicing the mozzarella.

And you should probably just eat the end pieces because they’re the best part and they’re funny shaped anyway.

After that, butterfly the pork chop. The technique is pretty simple and I’ve talked about it in another article. Then put the mozzarella inside.

Now it’s time to get ready to bake. I lined my pan with foil so that it’d be easier to clean, but it’s not necessary. I also but a little olive oil on the pan and on the pork chops themselves. Then I salted and peppered both sides.

I chose to bake these, but you could easily cook them on the stove. To bake it, I cooked it at 375 for 16 minutes then checked on it. They needed a few more minutes after that, so I’d say it took about 22 minutes total.

And to complete the meal, I paired the chops with baked asparagus.

They were super tasty and made me happy. I can also vouch for they’re skills as leftovers as I brought some to work the next day and it was still awesome.

Heart-shaped Chicken Breast

This is something really simple you can do that looks like you put in a lot of effort. And if you’re in to cute food, hearts are pretty much a must. This works really well for things like birthdays, anniversaries, or random cuteness days.

Basically, just take a chicken breast

and start to slice it in half. Note I said “start to;” you don’t want to cut all the way through the meat, otherwise you don’t end up with a heart, but with two half chicken breasts–and those are nowhere near as festive.

Once you’ve got it sliced, open it up.

Depending on the original shape of the breast, you may have to slice off a chunk. But don’t fret, it’s very simple.

And there you go, heart-shaped food.

You can cook it however you like, and an added plus from doing this is that they cook faster because they’re not as thick.

Goat Cheese Toastlets

I don’t really know what else to call these. If you have a better idea, feel free to let me know.

Basically, I came up with these as an idea for finger food for my French class’ end of the year party. I did warm them up before serving, but after tasting them cooled, they worked fine that way too. They end up looking pretty and they’re not too hard to make. (Cutting the cheese to make sure it stayed spherical was the hardest, but I’ll give you some tips to make it easier.)

I made three flavors, one that I knew was really tasty (goat cheese and honey) and two that I was pretty sure would work (cheery preserves, and basil-lemon-pepper). And for this all you need is:

A loaf of mini toasts (I got mine from the grocery store deli)
Goat cheese (I had 4 4oz logs)
Honey
Cherry preserves
Basil
A lemon
Pepper
Olive oil

Before you start anything, make sure to refrigerate the cheese. The cheese must be very cold (but not frozen) to ensure nice slices. So I kept mine in the back of the fridge while I prepped the other ingredients.

I started by slicing the basil into strips.

Thinner would work too, but I was kind of rushing. I mainly wanted them to be straight so they’d be pretty.

Next I juiced the lemon,

laid out the toasts,

and started cutting up the first cheese log.

Cutting it is, like I mentioned above, kind of hard. You want to make sure the cheese is very cold, and the knife, hot. I kept the cheese in the back of the fridge until the moment I needed it. And I kept a bowl of hot water in the sink to use to warm up and clean the knife between every slice. I found that a very sharp, non-serrated knife worked very well, and there was a certain technique I used to make sure they came out ok.

I started by warming the knife, drying it quickly with a paper towel, then going straight into the cut. I didn’t pull back and forth, because when I tried that, the knife just crumbled the cheese along the horizontal. So I just pushed straight down, trying to hold the log and keep if from smooshing in on itself. Then I shimmied it off the knife because just pulling it off would have broken it in half.

I posted the video on my brand new YouTube channel, in case you’re having trouble seeing it here.
Perfect Goat Cheese Medallions
And if you happen to have a YouTube account, feel free to subscribe! I plan on adding more videos once I get a big enough memory card.

Most of the medallions were placed directly on the toasts, but the savory lemon-basil toasts were coated with a little olive oil first. I’ll start with the sweet ones because they were more simple.

Place cheese

then add toppings. For the jam, I topped the cheese with a heaping teaspoonish of cherry preserves.

And for the honey I just squeezed on a pinwheel shape.

The lemon-basil had a few more steps. After olive oil-ing and cheese-ing the toasts, I brushed on the olive oil and cracked on some pepper.

Now I topped them off with the basil before baking them, but it might be better to do this step after baking. The basil won’t crisp up and it will still look as pretty as when you plucked it.

Now for the baking, I popped them in a 350 degree oven until the cheese was a little melty and soft. I didn’t want too high a heat because I was worried about the toast becoming inedibly hard. And don’t worry about the goat cheese not melting; it’s not like other cheeses and it won’t melt much.