(The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!)

This month was candy.  I make a lot of candy, but I don’t usually try it in August in Houston.

I made three different types this month – the first one was a batch of sponge candy.  Well, actually, it was two batches, but the first batch flopped so badly I had to toss it.  The idea is to cook the sugar to 285F or so, then take it off the heat, and add baking soda.  The baking soda reacts with the sugar mixture, and creates lots of little bubbles in the candy as it cools. 

The first batch I burned badly, and it had to be tossed.  The second batch came out much better:

Sponge Candy

I didn’t really want to dip it in chocolate – I was afraid the holes would fill up and it would be a mess.  So I just drizzled some dark chocolate on top.  It turned out very good – next time I’ll mix it a bit more and hopefully the bubbles will be a bit smaller.

Then I did a batch of Nutella balls.  I have a recipe for peanut butter cups that takes one cup of good peanut butter and half a cup of confectioner’s sugar.  I substituted Nutella for the peanut butter, and got these:

Nutella truffles

I put them in the fridge to set up a bit while I made peppermint patties.  I’ve made these before, and they’re also very simple – a little confectioner’s sugar, some peppermint extract, some butter for richness, and a bit of cream to bring it all together.  Everything gets mixed and shaped:

Daring Bakers: Candylicious!

And then those went in the fridge.  They’re sitting on powdered sugar so they don’t stick to the plate. 

An hour later, I tempered some chocolate to dip them in.  There are no intermediate pictures, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that melted chocolate and a good camera should never be on the kitchen counter at the same time. 

But I gently melted 3/4 of the chocolate in the microwave, then added the other 1/4 as seed chocolate to temper it.  Then the peppermint patties and nutella truffles got dipped.  Unfortunately, I was an idiot and sat them down on a cold plate, where they stuck.  A few of the chocolate shells broke when I tried to get them off the plate.  Usually, when I do a big batch of chocolates, I put them on parchment paper, which can be peeled off easily.

This was the final result:

Chocolate!

It was a fun challenge!  Looking forward to next month!

( see the recipes )

When I was a kid, we always had rhubarb around.  My mother had a huge garden in the back yard, and about a third of it was full of rhubarb.  There was always pie, and strudel, and stewed rhubarb, and rhubarb jelly.

But it doesn’t seem to grow in Texas – the internet says it can be done, but I’ve never seen it.  Every once in a while, I see some in the grocery store, but it’s always expensive and sort of sad looking.

But this weekend I was at Randall’s, and they had a whole pile that didn’t look too bad, and wasn’t terribly expensive.  I picked out a generous handful, thinking I’d make a pie.

When I got it home and started chopping, I realized I’d sadly miscalculated.  I had about twice as much as I needed for a pie. So I started by cutting up the first half.

I cheated and used a refrigerated pie crust.  I’m terrible at them – sometimes I try one just to see if I’ve gotten any better, but I rarely have, and I didn’t have the patience to mess with one. 

RhubarbThe whole thing is very easy – put a pie crust in the pan, put some sugar and flour on top, then add three cups of rhubarb.  Bake for about an hour, or until done.

Rhubarb

It was a very good pie.  But it left me with half the rhubarb still in my fridge.

So, the next day, I made a strudel.  I actually had enough for two, but I just doubled the recipe and put it in a 13×9 instead of an 8-inch square.

Another simple recipe – a basic crust, 3 more cups of rhubarb, and a package of cherry jello sprinkled on top.  Then a streusel made from flour, sugar, and some melted butter. Rhubarb

Rhubarb

The pie was perfect – exactly like I remembered it.  My mother’s was always redder, but that’s because her rhubarb was better.  The strudel came out a bit less-sweet then I remembered it, but it was still good.

It felt like spring, even if it is August!

( see the pie recipe )

( see the strudel recipe )