Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

Have you been on pinterest? It’s this amazing site that is really like an online scrapbook of ideas. It makes you feel completely inadequate and empowered all at the same time. There are so many categories like cool crafts, awesome looking recipes, fashion ideas, and even fitness plans. Anyway this is actually not a commercial for pinterest but it is where I found this recipe. They were called Chubby Hubby Truffles (after some rather well known ice cream) or Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles.

These are quick, very easy, and they look really nice. They are a wonderful combination of salt and sweet and the creamy peanut butter is a nice texture with the crunch of the pretzels. In full disclosure – I was not thrilled with how big I accidentally made them. These are really good!

Peanut Butter-Pretzel Truffles
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes About 18-24 truffles

1½ c. pretzel pieces
½ c. creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy)
1 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tb. light brown sugar
3 Tb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c.  milk or semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tb. vegetable shortening

Put the pretzel pieces into a resealable plastic bag and crush into very small bits – I used my food processor.

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir until all of the ingredients are completely blended and smooth. Add the pretzel bits to the peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the powdered sugar and mix until completely combined.

Line a small baking sheet or plate with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop, or about 2 teaspoons worth of peanut butter mixture, gently roll  into a ball (I put a little butter on my hand to reduce sticking and had to wash my hands after every 5 or so). Place the ball on the wax paper-lined cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining peanut butter mixture. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to dip the truffles, microwave the chocolate chips and vegetable shortening together in a small bowl at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth.

Dip each peanut butter-pretzel ball into the melted chocolate and use a fork or spoon to roll it around, ensuring that it is completely coated with chocolate. Let any extra chocolate drip off and place back on the wax paper-lined sheet. Repeat with all of the peanut butter-pretzel balls.

Return the baking sheet to the refrigerator and again chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with a drizzle of melted peanut butter (melt the peanut butter for 30 seconds in the microwave and use a fork to drizzle) and crushed pretzels, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Holiday Treats: Chocolate Bark

If you’re looking for a quick, customizable, but festive holiday treat, chocolate bark is a perfect choice. Just start with your favorite kind of chocolate, melt it, and then top with your choice of crunchy and chewy toppings. Voila! A lovely addition to your goodie tray.

White chocolate topped with chopped pistachios and chopped dried cherries.

CHOCOLATE BARK
(from Food Network Magazine, December 2010)
Print This Recipe

1 lb chocolate–bittersweet, semisweet, white, half bittersweet and half white for swirled bark
1/2 c. chopped crunchy toppings–nuts of any kind, peppermint candies, toff, nut brittle, toasted coconut, peanut butter chips, banana chips
1/2 c. chopped chewy toppings–dried fruits of any kind, mini marshmallows, candied orange peel, crystallized ginger
spices (opt.)–red pepper flakes, flaky sea salt, crushed cardamom seeds, toasted fennel seed, crushed pink peppercorns

Line a baking sheet with foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any creases.

Make sure all tools and utensils are dry. Chop chocolate into 1/2-inch pieces with a large knife. Place all but 1 cup of the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. (For swirled bark, put all but 1/2 cup of each chocolate in 2 separate bowls.) Microwave 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula. Continue microwaving and stirring at 30-second intervals until melted, 3 to 5 minutes total. (For swirled bark, microwave each chocolate separately at 15-second intervals.)

Immediately add the reserved chopped chocolate to the bowl; stir vigorously until melted and shiny. Don’t worry if there are a few small unmelted pieces.

Pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet; use the rubber spatula to spread it into a 10 to 12 -inch circle, about 1/4 inch think. (For swirled bark, pour the 2 chocolates side by side on the baking sheet; use the spatula to swirl them together.)

Press your crunchy and chewy toppings into the chocolate, arranging them so each bite has a mix of flavors and textures. Sprinkle with spices, if using. Let the bark harden completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. (If the room is warm, you may need to freeze the bark for a few minutes.) Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.

Bittersweet chocolate topped with toasted coconut, slivered almonds and mini marshmallows.

Holiday Treats: Truffles & Sugar Plums

(Alaina) I’ve made these truffles a few times but they seemed extra good this year – I think the original recipe might be from Taste of Home but this is my variation on it. The not-too-sweet Raspberry Cream Truffles are a beautiful addition to any goodie tray and would make perfect gifts! You do need to refrigerate them so keep that in mind.

The truffles were easy to change up – I dipped some in dark chocolate, rolled some in coconut and some in almonds. You could also dip them in white chocolate or milk chocolate or roll them in cocoa powder. For a different flavor, try another kind of preserves – I’m thinking strawberry with melted white chocolate chips instead of the semi-sweet chocolate chips would be delicious! It’s very important to refrigerate them for the specified amount of time before rolling them. I used a holiday mini muffin cup for each chocolate – it made for a pretty presentation.

RASPBERRY CREAM TRUFFLES
Print This Recipe

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips melted
1 c. crushed graham crackers or vanilla wafers
1/2 c. seedless raspberry preserves
finely chopped toasted almonds, coconut, cocoa powder, or melted chocolate (dark, milk, or white)

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the melted chips, wafer crumbs and preserves. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Shape into 1-in. balls; roll in almonds, coconut, and/or cocoa powder or dip in melted chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes about 3-3-1/2 dozen.

(Stephanie) In the hopes of finding a different and slightly less sweet treat for the holiday season, I set out to find and test a Fruit and Nut Ball recipe. In my researching, I discovered that these tiny sweets are also called Sugar Plums. And to be honest, I quite like that name.

I initially had some trouble with this recipe being too corase to stick together. I added a bit of orange juice and a little extra honey and still had troubles. You know what the secret is? Using a food processor. The recipe didn’t specify this method, but some quick research showed many other recipes do. It’s too difficult to get the fruits and nuts fine enough to become one mixture. Once I dumped it in the food processor, it worked perfectly. So my advice, use a food processor if you don’t want to be frustrated.

As I didn’t have dates, I used a combination of dried cranberries and dried cherries. Any combination of dried fruits should work. I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of flavors and love that these will keep for so long. I hope you enjoy these healthier, sweet treats (bonus, they are naturally gluten free!).

SUGAR PLUMS (or Fruit and Nut Balls)
(from Saveur Magazine online)
Print This Recipe

2 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c. chopped dried apricots
1 c. chopped dates
1 c. confectioner’s sugar or toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange almonds on baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool and chop.

Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Add chopped nuts and chopped fruits. Pulse to combine. Mixture should be thick and stick together.

Pinch off rounded teaspoon size and roll into balls (rinse hands often as the mixture is very sticky). Roll balls in powdered sugar, ground toasted coconut, or finely ground nut meal. Makes 60-70 balls.

Store in an airtight container in single layers divided by wax paper in refrigerator for up to a month.

Holiday Treats: Fudge

Peanut butter fudge is a traditional confection for me – my grandma made it every year and we loved it. But I was disappointed the last time I made peanut butter fudge – it just didn’t have that creamy texture and peanut flavor so I decided to try again with a new recipe. This one was a hit! It is from Alton Brown and seriously was so easy! It will definitely make my yearly “to make” list.

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE – Food Network, Alton Brown
Print This Recipe

1 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar

Microwave butter and peanut butter for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add vanilla and powdered sugar to peanut butter mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.

Pour into a buttered 8 by 8-inch pan lined with waxed paper. Place a second piece of waxed paper on the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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It also seemed time to try a new fudge recipe. While I like my old one, it makes a huge 9×13 and sometimes just doesn’t come out as creamy as I would like. So, I read more fudge recipes than you can count and finally settled on one. It did not disappoint – it was very good and I plan to make another batch before the end of the year. I skipped the nuts and just kept the rich, chocolatey flavor all on it’s own. I’m certain you could mix kinds of chocolate or change it to whatever suits your taste!

CHOCOLATE FUDGE – adapted slightly from allrecipes.com
Print This Recipe

3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt. Remove from heat;  and vanilla.

Spread evenly into buttered aluminum-foil-lined 8- or 9-inch square pan. Chill 2 hours or until firm.

Lift fudge out of pan and place onto cutting board; peel off paper and cut into 1 inch squares. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Baker’s Delight: Candy

I love to make candy! It’s usually fairly easy, tastes delicious, and makes a lot. It can frequently be gluten-free which is very nice when making a tray of sweets or giving a gift to someone with a gluten intolerance.

My biggest tip about candy making is to choose quality ingredients. The higher quality the chocolate, the better the sweet. I buy brand-name chocolate chips and chocolate bars – I find the store brands to generally be too waxy. This time of year is a great time to stock up because they are often on sale!

These nut clusters are simple and taste so good! Make them small and they will be perfect bite size pieces of goodness.

NUT CLUSTERS
(I adapted this slightly from my friend, Micah!)

12 oz. can of salted peanuts
6 oz. Semi-sweet Chocolate chips
6 oz. Butterscotch chips
2 oz. White Chocolate or vanilla chips
Milk or cream

Melt the semi-sweet and butterscotch chips in the microwave. Stir in peanuts and drop on waxed paper. Melt white chocolate chips with a splash (less than a tsp.) of cream or milk to thin and drizzle over finished clusters.

(I often double this recipe and use 2 cans of peanuts, 1 whole bag of semi-sweet chips and 1 whole bag of butterscotch chips – I think they are 11 oz. each.).

These cherries make any sweets tray beautiful. I started making them about 5 years ago when I thought a recipe looked unnecessarily complicated. I’ve made them with dark, milk, and white chocolate. Most often, I make the dark and white and sometimes I drizzle them with the contrasting chocolate. This year, I kept it simple…just dark chocolate…so far. They are quick to disappear and it seems I never make enough. The key to making them great is the chocolate.

CHOCOLATE DIPPED CHERRIES

1 jar Maraschino Cherries w/stems
Chocolate (I always use Ghiradelli – I especially like their melting chocolate available at the holidays in a bulk size at warehouse stores)

Drain the cherries in a colander. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (instructions for each particular chocolate are on the package). Dry cherries thoroughly with paper towels before dipping. Dip in chocolate, shake of excess, and put on a waxed paper lined tray or pan.

The amount of chocolate will depend on the amount of cherries – I’ve done anywhere from a couple dozen cherries to 10+ dozen. Figure about 11 oz. of chocolate for two small jars of cherries. If you have chocolate left, save it and re-melt it for other candy dipping or drizzling.

These are so delicious and I can’t stay out of them! My husband was so disappointed when they all disappeared on goodie trays.  They are very rich so cut them small.

LAYERED CANDY BARS (DOODS)
(I’ve slightly adapted this from my friend, Merrilee!)

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
Mix the butter and crumbs in a 9X13 pan and press down on the bottom.
Sprinkle on top:
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 package butterscotch chips
1 c. coconut
1 c. pecans

Drizzle over all:
1 can Eagle brand Condensed milk
Bake for about 25 min. at 350 degrees.  Cool, cut into small pieces, and enjoy!
Another great and easy candy is covered pretzels. They are so pretty to serve and the salty/sweet combo is wonderful!

CANDY-COATED PRETZELS
1 package almond bark or chocolate almond bark
1 bag small pretzels twists
Sprinkles of choice (or drizzle with chocolate)

Melt the bark according the package. Dip pretzels and place on waxed paper lined tray. Sprinkle with toppings. Let harden and store in an airtight container.

My all-time favorite (and a favorite of many in my family) is Butter Pecan Fudge. It melts in your mouth and has this rich, buttery goodness that is incredibly decadent. I’m seriously kicking myself for forgetting to take a picture of it! This is the best I have – it’s on the bottom tier. It was completely gone. I’m pretty sure another batch or two will be made between now and New Year’s and then I’ll take a proper picture.

BUTTER PECAN FUDGE
(Taste of Home)

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the butter, sugars, cream and salt. Bring to a boil over med. heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Stir in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Fold in pecans.

Spread into a buttered 8-in. square dish (I line mine with foil and then butter it to make it easy to pull out and cut). Cool to room temperature. Cut into 1-in. squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1-1/4 pounds.

HAPPY CANDY MAKING!