Root Beer Marshmallows 

Marshmallows may be the easiest candy I’ve ever made. 

They don’t require precise temperature control, hours of stirring, or split-second timing.  All you need is a stand mixer and some patience.

I’ve done regular marshmallows quite a few times, but never tried flavoring them.  Then I saw a link to various flavored marshmallow recipes, and I had to try this one.

It’s from Garrett’s Table, and it’s not really much different from a standard marshmallow recipe.  Some of the sugar and corn syrup are replaced with root beer syrup.

The recipe said to simmer down 2 liters of root beer until it was reduced to 1.5 cups.  That’s a lot of simmering.  Before and after:

Root Beer MarshmallowsRoot Beer Marshmallows

I started with it on medium heat, but it was taking forever.  Even on high, it took nearly an hour to reduce all the way down.  Next time, I’m going to skip this step entirely, and just buy the flavored soda syrup you get for a home soda machine.

Once you have it reduced, bloom 3 packages of unflavored gelatin in some cold water in your mixer bowl.  Add sugar and corn syrup to the reduced soda, and bring it back to a boil.

Then comes the patience:  set the mixer on low, and very slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixer.  You want to pour it as slowly as you can – it should take several minutes at least.  I used a pan with a pour spout on the side, but you could also use a glass measuring cup, or even some sort of heat-resistant squeeze bottle.

When you’re done, turn the mixer to high, and don’t mess with it for 10 minutes.  It will slowly start whipping up like whipped cream or egg whites – don’t stop it, don’t scrape down the bowl, just leave it alone.Root Beer Marshmallows

While it’s whipping, prepare the pan.  I greased a 13×9, then lined it with parchment paper, then greased the inside of that.

At the end of 10 minutes, you should have something that looks like egg whites around the "soft peak" stage.  Add the extract – he called for root beer extract, but I didn’t have any, so I used a tablespoon of vanilla and a few drops of root beer oil (a very concentrated candy flavoring).

Pour it into the pan, then spray a piece of plastic wrap with pam, and press it on top.  Put the pan in the refrigerator for a few hours.

When it’s time to cut them, peel off the plastic wrap, and lift the parchment paper out of the pan.  You can use a buttered knife to cut them, but a pizza cutter also works well.  I didn’t think they needed powdered sugar, but if you do, sprinkle some on top.

They come out tasting just like a root beer float – the root beer flavor really works with the creaminess of the marshmallow.  And when you share them, people will say, "Wow!  You can make marshmallows at home?".

( see the recipe )

Almond Butter Pie

Every Sunday, I clean out the fridge when I get home from the grocery store.  Usually, I just go through all the leftovers, dairy, and produce, toss what’s bad, and move the rest to the front so I don’t forget about it.

But this weekend I went though the condiment shelf, and realized there were 2 half-empty jars of smooth peanut butter and one half-empty jar of Trader Joe’s almond butter.  I like my peanut-butter-on-toast to be crunchy, so the peanut butter was most likely leftover from the peanut butter cups I made for Christmas.  The almond butter I brought back from a trip, but it ended up forgotten at the back of the shelf.

So, what to do with it?  I’m going to make cookies with the peanut butter, so I went looking for something else – and I found a peanut butter pie recipe.  I’ve had peanut butter pie, and I thought the almond butter would make a great variation on it.

I started with Paula Deen’s recipe, because you can’t go wrong with her Southern recipes.  I replaced the peanut butter with the almond butter, and the graham cracker crust with a standard pie crust, since I had one in the fridge.

The rest of it was trivial – whip the cream, then mix everything else together until smooth, then fold in the whipped cream.  I saved some of the whipped cream for a garnish.

It’s amazingly rich – you’ll probably want to serve very small slices.  The almond butter made it noticeably different then a standard peanut-butter pie.  If I’d thought ahead, I would have garnished it with some toasted almonds, but it really didn’t need them.

It’s not the most photogenic dessert ever, but it certainly makes up for it with taste!

( see the recipe )

Snickerdoodles

My boyfriend loves snickerdoodles.  I don’t dislike them, but when I want cookies, they never seem to come to mind.  I’m much more likely to make peanut butter cookies, or chocolate chip cookies, or oatmeal-raisin cookies.

But I saw a recipe on The Kitchn the other day, and it looked interesting, mostly because of the technique.  Almost all cookie recipes are the same:  Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs and vanilla, add the flour, add in chips/raisins.

This one is different – you melt the butter, then mix together all the dry ingredients.  Whisk the eggs and vanilla into the butter (let it cool first!).  Then combine the wet and dry ingredients, make into balls, roll in cinnamon and sugar, bake, and you’re done.

I upped the spices quite a bit from the original.  If you like your cookies less cinnamon-y, you can use less – but if you don’t want cinnamon, why are you making snickerdoodles?

They come out amazingly soft and chewy – I’m not sure how much of that was the melted butter and how much was the technique, but whatever it was really worked.  You end up with a very thin sugar crust on the outside, with a soft, chewy center inside.

I was planning to also be able to comment on how good they were the next day – but they didn’t last that long!

( see the recipe )

Leek Bread Pudding

I don’t think of bread pudding as savory – or at least I didn’t.  Then I found this Leek Bread Pudding recipe.

The recipe sounds just like bread pudding: toasted bread (I used challah), eggs, milk, and nutmeg.  But instead of sugar and raisins, it’s got leeks and cheese.

What you end up with, though, is closer to dressing.  In fact, it’s going on my list of Christmas side dishes for this year, to replace the bread stuffing that never seems to turn out.

I used about half a loaf of the challah I had leftover.  The leeks got sliced and caramelized while I cubed and toasted the bread.  Then everything got tossed together – the bread, some fresh thyme (I doubled the thyme, and I’d probably throw in some sage as well next time I make it), the caramelized leeks, and the fresh chives. 

The NYT recipe called for a 13×9 pan, but I tried Smitten Kitchen’s idea and put it in a large loaf pan.  I don’t have any clue how she managed to get it back out of the loaf pan in one piece, because despite using a non-stick loaf pan and butter, the cheese still stuck firmly to the bottom of the pan.

Whatever pan you use, layer in the cheese and the bread mixture, pour in the milk and egg mixture, let it sit for 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the milk, then put it in the oven.  The entire house will smell amazing for the hour it takes to bake.

Leek Bread Pudding

Since mine refused to let go of the pan to be neatly sliced, I just spooned it into a bowl.

I served it with a beer-can chicken:

Leek Bread Pudding

It’s definitely replacing all my existing stuffing recipes.  You could modify the spices to make it fit with pretty much any meal – the thyme and sage would go fine with poultry, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add other traditional stuffing ingredients, like oysters, apples, or sausage.

But I might not tell my Christmas guests that it’s bread pudding.  At least not until after it’s all been eaten.

( see the recipe )

Challah

I figured since the potato bread had come out so well, I’d try my luck with more bread this weekend.

I saw a recipe online for a Leek Bread Pudding, so the logical first step was to make a loaf of challah.

My challah recipe comes from an old friend, and it’s about as simple as bread gets.  I was careful this time to bloom the yeast for the full 10 minutes, and it looked fizzy and healthy before I started adding everything else.  I took that as a good sign.

I added the rest of the ingredients – oil (I use olive), more water, more sugar, and two eggs, kneaded it in the stand mixer, then let it rise.  I put it in the oven with the door closed and the light on, and that seemed to work perfectly.  It was doubled in 2 hours, and I punched it down and let it rise another 45 minutes.

The braiding is easy – just split the dough into thirds (I never get them quite even), lay them out on parchment paper, and braid them.  I usually only get a few twists in.  Tuck the ends underneath to make it look neater.

Challah

Challah

Then let it rise one more time, and add sesame seeds and egg wash to the top, and bake.  I didn’t want the sesame seeds in the bread pudding, so I left them out this time – the picture above is from an earlier loaf.  I was sloppy with the egg wash – my egg-wash-applying-brush was in the dishwasher, so I tried to use a spoon, and it got messy:

Challah

But it was still good. And it made amazing bread pudding…but that’s the next post.

( see the recipe )