Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Double Dark Chocolate Maple Bacon Pecan Fudge

So along with all this Other stuff I've been busy cooking for my week long camp out, today I'm tackling Fudge.  Why?  Well, there's 2 reasons, really.  First: why not?  Second: competition, baby!  One of the smaller groups taking part in this rather extensive get together is hosting a Fudge Off!! competition for anyone who wants to participate.  There are only 2 requirements - bring your best fudge, and bring "documentation" (read "print your recipe so we can all get copies, damnit.")

The first thing to do in such a case, of course, is to figure out just what sort of Fudge to make.  There's a lot of really good recipes out there.  Coming up with my own that is both creative and tasty seemed like the way to go.  Especially since there is a common fudge ingredient that I personally try to avoid like the plague: corn syrup.  That stuff is apparently Everywhere these days.  I hate it.  I don't keep it in my kitchen at all.  And I either adapt or avoid recipes that call for it.  In the course of trying to figure out how to adapt Fudge back to methods that don't require corn syrup, I ran across the realization that it's practically impossible any longer to find a recipe for Caramel that doesn't call for the same dadgum thing.  Fortunately, if you look long enough and hard enough, you Can find caramel and fudge recipes that are "vintage" enough not to have corn syrup listed as an ingredient.  They take longer to make, they're much more finicky, and oh brother do they have to be babysat so they don't burn.  But if you're willing to put in the effort, it's well worth the trouble.

Over the years, I've learned several important things about making Fudge or Caramel - things that seem like "duh" moments when you remember them (or tell someone else to make sure they do it that way) but which - if forgotten - can rapidly become a major Problem.  The french term "Mise En Place" (pronounced "meese in plas") meaning 'putting in place' really becomes important when making candy of any sort.  You'll want to have everything set up before you start.  You'll especially want to have things like your heavily buttered pan to pour your fudge into for cooling/hardening ready, and your candy thermometer close by before you start.  Because once you put things on the heat, it becomes both time and temperature sensitive, and you don't have time to do things that you haven't prepped before hand!

While this recipe turned out fabulously and is sure to be a hit, it will also be difficult (if not impossible) to exactly duplicate unless you live in my area.  I used a specialty cocoa powder from my local high end specialty spice shop, and I used a specialty cocoa Sugar that only they carry that I'm aware of.  While you could substitute Hersey's Special Dark cocoa powder for the Mayan Cocoa powder that I used, I'm not sure what you would use to substitute for the Black Onyx Sugar that I'm fairly sure is created in store.

One (1) 12 oz can sweetened condensed milk (1 cup but I didn't scrape the can)
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, half reserved, plus enough to seriously grease your pan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup Black Onyx Sugar from Savory Spice Shop, Oklahoma City (sugar, black onyx cocoa powder, Ceylon cinnamon, Mexican vanilla beans, chocolate extract)
5 tablespoons Mayan Cocoa from Savory Spice Shop, Oklahoma City (Dutch cocoa, chile peppers, cinnamon, vanilla powder)
2 tablespoons Grade A Dark Maple Syrup
6 slices bacon, fried crispy, cooled, and chopped up fine
1 cup finely chopped Pecans
1 tablespoon Honey
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Mix Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Cream, Condensed Milk, Maple Syrup, Honey, and 2 tablespoons butter in pan, and Slowly raise the temperature, melting the butter and  making sure all of the sugar is completely dissolved into the liquid.  Once sugar is completely dissolved, slowly raise temperature of mixture to bring to a low rolling boil, stirring constantly and frequently scraping sides of pan.  Boil mixture for 10 to 12 minutes, until temperature is between 250f and 280f.  Remove from heat and allow to cool until temperature is below 130.  Add vanilla extract, pecans, and bacon bits, stirring until well mixed and it has begun to thicken.  Quickly pour mixture into heavily buttered baking dish and allow to cool completely, at least 4 to 6 hours, before cutting.  Store in air tight container.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chai Latte Cookies - the recipe as requested

Here's the recipe for another of the various Baked Goodies that I'm taking to my medieval event that I leave for on Sunday, to camp out with 5000 other history geeks, ren-fair junkies, and anachronist nerds...

Chai Latte Shortbread Cookies

5 cups + a bit sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (aprx 12 oz) plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup butter (1 stick) softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground green cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground white cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground crystalized ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise
1/8 teaspoon ground black peppercorn
1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaf
pinch of salt (this can be omitted if you use salted butter, but needs to be included if you use unsalted butter)
2 eggs

(The Individual spices listed can be substituted for your favorite Chai blend as long as it contains only spices.   In the OKC area, I get my Chai spice blend ready to grind from Savory Spice Shop on Western, 2 oz at a time.  I ground up the entire tube of Chai spices to use for this recipe, then added nutmeg and extra cardamom. You will probably want to adjust the amounts to taste, since these are approximate.)

Grind togther all spices except vanilla extract and salt (if using) - a small coffee grinder works great to get everything to the same consistency.

Mix Chai spices and sugar, then cream together with softened butter, vanilla, eggs, and yogurt until smooth. 

Add salt and baking powder, stirring until evenly distributed.

Begin mixing in flour a little at a time, until dough is no longer sticky, and has become somewhat stiff.  Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours to allow dough to rest.
Roll out on lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into rounds (or use your favorite cookie cutter!)
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 325F on parchment lined cookie sheets - bottom edges should just begin to turn darker brown. 

Baked Scotch Eggs - delightful lil snackages they are

So as I've stated in the past on this blog, I play with a Medieval (ren-fair) type group and have for several  years.  One of the things that we do a lot of in this group is Cook.  We've got some really outstanding cooks, several of whom do things like redaction of recipes to adapt them for modern cooks and cooking methods.  Some of us also create our own recipes, we  have cooking competitions, we teach classes on Jam and Jelly making, preserving spiced fruits, pickling, breads, and pretty much anything else you can think of to do in a kitchen and then eat.  This week, I'm on a huge cooking spree getting ready to go to one of our yearly BIG events that will have people from all over the country (and possibly the Planet) in attendance.  Some of what I'm cooking is for snacking on during the trip, some of it for sharing, and some of it for a sort of impromptu competition (FUDGE!) that's being hosted by one of the smaller groups which will be in attendance.  My main thing in cooking for Gulf War 23 is two fold: ease of portability from home to Lumberton, Mississippi; and ease of portability/not requiring a full table spread to consume.

One of my favorite Easy Portable Hand held meals is Scotch Eggs.  I have NO idea whether they were actually Invented in Scotland - but Scotch Eggs is what I've always heard them called.

1 dozen eggs hard boiled, cooled, and peeled.
2 lbs uncooked seasoned ground meat of your choice  (breakfast sausage works great for convenience)
2 raw eggs (for egg wash)
1/2 tblspoon horseradish mustard
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tblspoon flour
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 350F

Whip together raw eggs and mustard in a bowl until smooth and well blended

Mix bread crumbs, flour, garlic powder and onion powder in a bowl until well blended and spices are evenly distributed through the mixture

Divide uncooked ground meat into 12 equal portions, and wrap one portion around each hard boiled egg.

Roll each meat encased egg in your eggwash mixture until well coated.

Roll each eggwash dipped egg in the bread crumb mixture until covered, and place on baking sheet until all eggs have been eggwashed and coated in crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes, turning once at the 15 minute point to ensure even browning.