Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fall and Summer Desserts

Today I had the pleasure of making wedding shower favors with my bestest friend Caitlin.  She livesin Vermont and this is not okay with me, because I do not get to see her enough.  Luckily today she needed some assistance preparing the favors for her sister's shower tomorrow (congrats, Allie!) and she knew just who to call!  She had a recipe for little chocolates, but I thought we could add some pieces of my apple cider caramels.  After all, the wedding is in September at an apple farm, so these caramels could get people excited for the big day!  We worked on both recipes simultaneously.  The chocolates were called "fruity nutty chocolate valentines."  I am not sure why they are called valentines - I guess just because they are made of chocolate? But they were probably the easiest thing ever.  We melted chocolate (in a double boiler... the recipe doesn't say that but I know enough about chocolate to infer!).  Then we stirred in some trail mix, poured it into a pan, sprinkled on some more trail mix, let it harden in the fridge, and cut it into little pieces.  And, done!  Pretty easy and simple if you like fruity, nutty chocolate things.  Caitlin is going to put pieces of the chocolate into mini muffin wrappers.  We practiced with a few, and they look really cute!

The apple cider caramels took a bit longger than that. I made these last Christmas Eve for our family party and they were really popular.  My family raves about them.  And they are pretty great, but they take at least 2 hours.  And that's not like bread, where it might take 4 hours but you are sitting and letting it rise for half that.  No, you are standing there stirring for 2 hours.  But still, if you have time, and you like apple cider and caramels, then they are worth the wait.  My advice if you want to try these babies: use a good candy thermometer and be patient.  If it says to turn the heat on low and get the temp up to 324 degrees, then do it.  Don't get impatient and put the heat on medium, and watch that thermometer like a hawk; one tiny degree of difference can be catastrophic!  Now that you are sufficiently scared, just trust me that if you can follow directions, these are not hard, and they are delicious.  The cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg combine with the apple cider to make a very fall-y, amazing caramel.  I foresee another batch of these in my future, since Caitlin took all the candies back for the shower and now Mom is craving them!

Tonight I knew I did have to make something for my poor family after they watched me make 2 different candies and didn't get any!  I had pinned a recipe for cookies that look like sand dollars, and I knew immediately I had to make them.  The beach is a special place for me, and I still have a huge collection of sand dollars that I have kept since I was a little girl (by the way, fun sand dollar fact: you know how you can find some sand dollars that are brown and some that are white?  Well, the brown ones are still alive.  Don't take them or you are murdering them.  FYI :) )  Anyway, the cookies are cinnamon-sugar cookies with sliced almonds on top to make them look like sand dollars.  I fell in love with them when I saw the pictures.  I am bad at making pretty food, so when food is naturally pretty, then I like it.  The cookies did take a while; the dough has to be refrigerated for 2 hours, then rolled out and cookie cut (is that a verb) into circles.  Then each round of dough needs to be brushed with egg white, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and decorated with 5 almond slices like a sand dollar.  Then once they go in the oven, after 3 minutes you have to pull them out again and press the almonds into the cookie.  Then they're back in for 7 minutes.  So yes, time consuming.  But worth it!  They are so gorgeous, so beachy, so tasty!  Mom and Rachael each ate 4 and Mom declared them the best cookies that I have made.  I am really happy I found a recipe that is both tasty and beautiful.  A perfect summery cookie for a chilly night that has me dreading the fall season :(

fruity nutty chocolate valentines
apple cider caramels
sand dollar cinnamon sugar cookies

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