Fall Treats – Graham Crackers, Hot Cocoa, and Maple-Cinnamon Marshmallows

I’ve got big news.  I turned my oven on for the first time since May.  And it has been amazing.  While there are still some warm days, fall is almost in full-swing.  Ovens are being turned on around the country and houses are starting to positively reek of baked goods and root vegetables.

The only cookie-cutter shapes I have are hearts and circles I hope you're better equipped.

While I am not ready to gain all that holiday weight just yet, I have been craving a fall-type snack, and I came up with just the right barely-fall snack – cinnamon graham crackers and hot cocoa with maple cinnamon marshmallows.  Light enough to not concern yourself with holiday weight, but full of warm fall flavors.

Are you fantasizing yet?

If you’re looking for Honey-Maid, Jet Puffed, and Swiss Miss, save yourself the trouble and just stop here and go read another blog.  These recipes taste nothing like those flavored sugar store brands.  This group of recipes provide all the nostalgia of childhood fall treats, but with a much more adult flavor.

The graham crackers have a coarse texture, suitable for dunking, and a hint of bold molasses flavor.

The cocoa actually tastes like cocoa – not sugar.

And the marshmallows….Oh. My. God.  The Marshmallows.  If you don’t at least make the marshmallows you will be doing yourself a huge disservice.  They are fantastic on their own, but when added to cocoa lends a warm maple-cinnamon flavor that really revs up the cocoa.  Happy fall everybody!

Cinnamon Graham Crackers
makes about 3 dozen 3 square inch crackers

Ingredients

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup AP flour

1 tsp coarse salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

¼ cup honey

¼ cup robust or blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup plus 4 tbsp sugar, divided

¼ cup milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

Method

  • In a bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, AP flour, salt, and baking powder.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers, until the mixture looks like coarse wet sand.
  • Add the honey, molasses, and 1/3 cup sugar and combine.  Add the milk and vanilla, using your hands to mix it together until it forms a stiff dough.
  • Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.  Split the dough in half.  Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface and shape half the dough into a rectangle.  Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment and roll it out until it’s about ¼ inch thick, and roughly 12 x 15 inches.
  • Combine 4 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the rolled dough.
  • Cut the dough into whatever shape you wish.  If you have cute cookie cutters, now is the time to break them out – pumpkins, leaves, ghosts, whatever you want.  If you’re like me and don’t have any cool fall cookie cutters, break out your pizza cutter and cut into rectangles.  Or get out your Valentine cookie cutters.
  • Once your shapes are cut, prick each shape with a fork all the way down the middle.  Then, since you’re the only one in the kitchen and you’re super curious, eat one of the dough scraps.  Very carefully transfer the shapes to one of your prepared pans and place in freezer to chill for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  • Repeat with second half of dough, and bake for 18-22 minutes, until browned at the edges.
  • While I am a BIG fan of fresh-from-the-oven goodies, you will want to let these cool completely before digging in.

Store in an airtight container, for up to 2 weeks.

Maple Cinnamon Marshmallows
makes about 36 medium-sized mallows

Ingredients

2/3 cup water, divided

3 packets (¼ oz. each) unflavored gelatin

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

pinch of kosher salt

1 tsp maple flavoring

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  • Lightly oil an 8×8 inch pan and coat generously with powdered sugar.  Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, pour 1/3 cup the water and 3 packets of gelatin.  Let stand for ten minutes or until gelatin has softened.
  • In a saucepan, off the heat, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup of water.  Place the mixture over medium-high heat and clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom.
  • Cook the mixture without stirring until it reaches 240˚F, or soft ball stage.
  • Turn your mixture on low speed and very carefull add the molten lava hot syrup to the softened gelatin.
  • Add the maple flavoring and turn the mixer to medium-high speed.  Beat for 8-13 minutes.  Set a timer – you do not want to underbeat these puppies.
  • When the mixture is white, stiff, and sticky, turn the mixer off and spread the mixture into your prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula.  Set aside for at least one hour.
  • Sift together the cinnamon and powdered sugar into a bowl or shallow dish.  Run a wet knife around the edge of the marshmallow to loosen it.  Turn the pan out onto a work surface.
  • Cut the marshmallow into squares, wetting the knife between cuts.  Toss each marshmallow in the cinnamon sugar to coat.

Store in a single layer, or in layers separated by wax or parchment paper.  They will keep for 1 month when stored airtight at room temperature.

Hot Cocoa Mix
makes approx. 36 cups of cocoa, or 4 ½ cups dry mix

Ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder – splurge on this one, otherwise it won’t be worth it.

2 ½ cups malted milk powder – if you can’t find malted milk powder, just use nonfat dry milk powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cornstarch

1 pinch cayenne pepper – you won’t be able to taste this; it just amps up the chocolate flavor.  If you want to be able to taste it, use about a tsp of cayenne.

Method

  • In a large, airtight container combine all ingredients.  Secure the lid and shake to combine.
  • For hot cocoa, use 2 heaping tablespoons of dry mix per (regular size) cup.

Goat Cheese, Crossroads, and Big Decisions

I did not post last weekend, and in fact, it’s been so long since I’ve posted that my computer had logged me out of WordPress!

Life has been hectic and stressful, and while I have been baking up a storm (it’s just what I do when I’m stressed), I have not taken notes on recipes, photographed, etc.

I take life in stride, and usually just let the chocolate chips fall where they may, but every now and then life plops me between ten different paths and time stands still for no baker.

It might feel like it’s standing still when you eat this cheese though.  There are no words to describe homemade goat cheese.  It’s pretty quick, modifiable, and oh. my. god. creamy.  Not to mention shockingly inexpensive, and aside from goat’s milk, you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry or fridge.

I spread mine on some homemade rosemary olive knots that I was going to photograph and post with this, but, well… you know.  Life.  It’s also delicious spread on some red bell pepper slices, like an adult version of ants on a log (you know, peanut butter + raisins on celery), or spread on some decent bread + toasted + topped with roasted red peppers & caramelized onions.  You will never buy goat cheese again, once you seek out a goat milk source.  It’s expensive and bland compared to this stuff.

Goat Cheese

Adapted from Kiss My Spatula

Ingredients

1 quart pasteurized goat’s milk ( the original recipe says to avoid ultra-pasteurized, but the first time I made this that’s what I had grabbed.  It was certainly milder upon first taste, more like a tangy cream cheese, but after a few days in the fridge it develops a stronger ‘goat cheese’ flavor.)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 clove freshly grated garlic

A few pinches coarse salt

Herbs (up to you) but recommended: Rosemary, chives, parsley, herbs de Provence, fennel fronds, dill, and other non-herbs like dried apricots.  I used a combination of fresh rosemary, thyme and coarsely ground black pepper.  The whole mixture (of garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs) probably amounted to a tablespoon.

Method

  • Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth—really, several. Otherwise you’ll lose precious goat cheese through the soggy cloth. Place over a large bowl to catch the whey drips.curd draining rig - I'm sure most of you have one of these pots with the colander that fits inside
  • Fill a medium saucepan with goat’s milk. Heat gradually until it reaches 180°F. Watch closely. You can run in and out of the kitchen, but don’t get too distracted. It shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes.
  • Once it hits the magical temperature, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until milk starts to curdle**, about 20 seconds.

    the curds are really tiny - don't expect any cottage cheese effect

  • Ladle milk into colander. Pull up and tie the four corners of the cheesecloth together and hang on the handle of a wooden spoon. (This was my favorite part, second to eating it of course.) Set over a very deep bowl.
  • Allow whey to drain (drip, drip, drip) until a soft, ricotta-like consistency is reached inside the cloth, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

    drip drip drip

  • Transfer to a bowl and fold in salt, garlic, and flavors of your choice. Serve on fresh bread, salads, with fruit, or just straight-up. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, but after a few days, the consistency isn’t as lusciously smooth and spreadable.

    herbs, garlic, salt, pepper

    probably about 6 oz of cheese, which is slightly larger than the tubes of goat cheese at the grocery store

    And then there was none.  When life hands you lemons, slow down and make your own cheese.  Then eat all of it.  It will be well worth it.

Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Last weekend’s warm weather got me so excited to post this recipe, along with a sunny blog about how it feels like spring is just around the corner.

And then Snowpocalypse 3.0 happened.  Yeah, snow is pretty.  Yeah, I got a much needed day out of the office.  But I hate the cold.  And I hate the snow.  And this was all preceded by two days of walking around in a city-flavored slushy, while the heavens poured Slusho mix all over our heads.  Gross.

But I still made the yogurt, and ate every bit of it.  It’s yogurt, so it’s healthy, right?

The thing about frozen yogurt….Forget TCBY, and Häagen Dazs.  That stuff is just like ice cream, and if you’re eating frozen yogurt to replace ice cream, calorie-wise, it’s not gonna do the trick.  Check the carton.  Most store bought fro-yos have only 20-50 less calories than their non-dieting sisters.  It’s true.

And anyhow, frozen yogurt should not just be a heavy woman’s ice cream.  It’s a completely different tasting beast when done properly.  It should be tangy and not overly sweet, and invite a fruit (or granola!) accompaniment as though it were it’s long lost twin.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to try Pink Berry, you know what I’m talking about.  That stuff was a revelation.  A realization of all that stuff I just said. If you haven’t, making this frozen yogurt will be as close to a life-changing event as you’ll get in the kitchen.

Pomegranate Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients

1 quart of Greek yogurt (roughly two cups) strained, or 1 quart of strained plain yogurt (NO FLAVORS – THIS IS IMPORTANT; however you may use whatever fat content you like.  I used low-fat because my store was out of non-fat at the time)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp pomegranate jelly

Method

  • Whisk ingredients together and allow to cool for at least one hour.  This is important.  Skip this step and you will not achieve creamy frozen heaven.
  • Start ice cream maker and pour mixture in.  Let machine run for about 20-30 minutes.  With ice creams it will stop itself and you will hear a clicking noise.  This did not happen with the yogurt.
  • Once mixed, eat immediately for soft-serve consistency, or chill in freezer for up to 3 hours for one more ice-cream.

teeny mint leaves for a pretty garnish

This will refill the yogurt container to a little under half, if you’re storing for later snackage, but I’d be really surprised if it lasted that long.

If you want to mix in fresh pomegranate seeds, wait until the very end of the cycle and then toss them in.  I think that would be delicious, but I’m broke and can’t afford these things.  I also think a little lemon zest would be delicious and pretty.

Hot Chocolate Bombs with Cinnamon Marshmallows

At Christmas I made hot chocolate on a stick posted at The Giver’s Log.  It was just about the easiest and most appreciated kitchen related gift I’ve  ever done.  I had ambitions to make marshmallows to go along with them but it just got too hectic.

But not this time, baby.  For Christmas I did peppermint hot chocolate on a stick.  I’m not going to lie to you.  I had to try it a couple of times to get it to look like how I wanted – ask my neighbors and co-workers.  They all got what looked like a gift from Spunky – cat s#!t on a stick.

who, me?

This time around I decided to forgo the sticks entirely, and read up on how to temper chocolate so that they wouldn’t look all dried out.  Turns out it’s pretty easy.  So I got some really cute Valentine themed mini cupcake papers and got crackin.

Hot Chocolate Love Bombs

yields about 16 one ounce bombs

Ingredients

16 oz. chocolate – bittersweet, milk, semi-sweet, and (gag) white chocolate all work.  I used what I had lyin around, which was semi-sweet.  16 oz is about a bag and a bit more.

3 packets of your favorite hot cocoa mix

cupcake wrappers

Ziploc bag (for piping)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp (or pinch) chipotle or cayenne powder, I used chipotle

Method

  • Set your separated cupcake papers on a baking sheet.
  • Bring a bit of water to a simmer in a sauce pan, and place a glass or non-reactive metal bowl over it, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.
  • Put most of your chocolate (the bag, saving the other bit) in the bowl and let it melt, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, turn off the heat and remove the bowl from the sauce pan, making sure not to drip any condensation.
  • Put your hot cocoa packets, spices, and remaining chocolate in the bowl and return to the bowl to the saucepan, stirring to mix.
  • Once it looks all mixed up, open your plastic bag and scoop the chocolate into one corner (like you would with frosting).
  • Cut a smallish hole in the corner of the bag, and pipe chocolate into your awaiting papers.  Once all papers are filled, top with adorable tiny heart sprinkles.

You might want to tap the baking pan against a flat surface to even out the tops of the bombs, but I thought they were cute with a little piped swirl on the top.  If giving as a gift, make sure to include instructions, which are:

  • Drop one chocolate bomb into 6-8 oz (one regular sized mug) of hot milk.  Water does not work, the chocolate will not melt properly.

Cinnamon Marshmallows

Ingredients

3 packets unflavored gelatin

2/3 c. water, divided

1 c. light corn syrup

1 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp cinnamon extract (or vanilla, or banana, or whatever)

1/4 tsp gel food coloring (if desired)

powdered sugar for dusting

Method

  • Lightly oil an 8×8 pan with Canola oil and generously coat with powdered sugar.
  • Pour 1/3 c. of the water into a bowl, sprinkling the gelatin over it, and set aside.
  • In a saucepan, off the heat, combine the remaining 1/3 c. water, corn syrup, and granulated sugar.
  • Place the pan over medium-high heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and cook the mixture until it reaches 240*, avoiding the temptation to stir.
  • Every now and then, brush the sides of the pan (on the inside) with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash away residual sugar crystals.
  • With the mixer on low speed, very carefully add the lava hot syrup to the gelatin.  Add the cinnamon (and food coloring, if desired) and increase the speed to medium high.  Beat for 8-13 minutes, until the mixture becomes opaque and stiff.
  • Spread the mixture into the prepared pan, and spread around using a lightly oiled spatula.  Let sit for one hour, or until firm and cool.

pink gloop

  • Once the mallows are set, sift powdered sugar into a shallow bowl.  Run a wet knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the mallow sheet and remove it from the pan.  Cut into squares and toss each square in powdered sugar until completely coated.

    fluffier than any you'll find at the store

    Happy sipping folks!

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