(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 )

For some reason, I seem to have an excessive amount of Nutella in my life.  There’s the big batch of homemade nutella in the fridge.  Then, we went to TechMunch a few weeks ago, where we each got a jar of the organic Whole Foods version in our goody bags.

And there is only so much toast one household can eat.  So I went out looking for recipes, and I found this one.  It’s a cake mix on the bottom, with a nutella cheesecake on the top.  I don’t usually buy cake mixes, and I was tempted to replace it with some sort of homemade cake, but I figured I’d make this once the way it was written.  I’m glad I did, because the cake mix doesn’t really mix up to be a cake – it’s just got barely enough liquid to come together.  If you don’t want to use a cake mix, I’d recommend a chocolate shortbread crust – there’s a good one at The Hungry Mouse.

The recipe calls for one egg and a stick of melted butter, mixed with one devil’s food cake mix.  It took a lot of mixing to get it to come together, and it ended up much like a shortbread dough.  Pat it into a (well-greased!) 13×9:

Nutella Brownies

The cheesecake topping is easy – just mix a cup of Nutella and a block of cream cheese until they’re creamy and completely combined.  Add some eggs, vanilla, another stick of melted butter, and powdered sugar.  The recipe calls for 16 ounces, and you should weigh it.  If you don’t have a scale, you can just buy a 16-ounce package at the store and use the whole thing. Be careful to add the sugar slowly, or it will end up all over your kitchen!

You’ll end up with a nice, thick cheesecake batter.  Mine’s got texture because my nutella had texture – if you use the store-bought version, it will come out smooth.  Yes, that is powdered sugar all over my kitchen, why do you ask?

Nutella Brownies

Pour the cheesecake over the crust, and bake for 45 minutes or so.  This is what you’ll end up with:

Nutella Brownies

They’re really good.  The crust is firm enough to give them structural stability, but the top is creamy and cheese-cake-y.

For an interesting variation, you could use plain, smooth peanut butter as a replacement for the nutella.  You’d get a peanut butter cheesecake over a chocolate crust.  You could make it in tiny tart pans, too, but you’d have to cut the cooking time significantly.

I’d make them again!

( see the recipe )