Peanut Butter Fudge and Ganache Coffins, plus Salt Dough Pumpkins

Are you afraid or in love with Halloween? This year Halloween scared me into making a cemetery scene with Peanut Butter Fudge and Ganache coffins, and a few decorative Salt Dough Pumpkins.

It’s Food ‘n Flix time again, the Halloween edition! In this monthly group a host picks a movie of their choice that pertains to food. Everyone watches the movie and then makes a recipe which the film inspired. It can be any recipe you want. This month’s pick is hosted by Elizabeth at The Lawyer’s Cookbook, who she terrified us into watching the movie Hocus Pocus! I was scared I hid in my Peanut Butter Fudge and Ganache Coffins.

Peanut Butter Fudge and Ganache Tombstones

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Secret Recipe Club: Brown Sugar Fudge

Today is my group’s reveal day for the Secret Recipe Club. What is the SRC? Basically you are assigned a fellow participant’s blog by the organizer and then you pick a recipe of your choice from that blog and make your version of it. But it is a secret, you cannot reveal whom you picked and what you made until the established posting date and time.

I can’t wait to see who picked me but I felt sure lucky when I was assigned Grumpy’s Honeybunch, a blog written by Shelby as a record for her children and potential grandchildren to have of her as a memory. That is too freaking sweet! Her cooking is greatly influenced by her grandmother. Settling on a recipe was hard as usual. My runner ups were the Beef Tangine with Butternut Squash , the All Day Apple Butter made in a slow cooker, and the Quinoa Salad with Mango, Black Beans, and Cilantro Lime Dressing. But finally I decided to make the Brown Sugar Fudge, for 2 reasons.

First reason, I chose Nanny’s Brown Sugar Fudge because it is almost – and I mean almost – identical to a classic Quebec candy treat called Sucre à la Crême. The exact translation is Sugar Cream. The recipes are very similar but the tastes are worlds apart. Of course both are amazing but I would suggest you make both recipes to compare. I am listing the traditional Sucre à la Crême recipe below. The preparation is absolutely identical so follow the directions of the Brown Sugar Fudge.

The second reason was guilt! Well that may be stretching it a bit far but it’s partly true. I spent the first 5 years at my job in a quiet and isolated (but not private) office. Since this summer I was moved with the costumer support team even if my role remains unchanged. At first I feared this move as this can be a loud spot with a lot of comings and goings. It does get really loud at times but I have to say I am now absolutely thrilled to be working with such a great group. Besides a lot work of course, gossip, stories of the evening’s outings and general love lives are the order of the day. And to varying degrees we all have a sweet tooth. Like we even have a corner with a table reserved for shared snacks…I kid you not here is a picture of it. Someone always contributes a baked dessert, a bag of chips, candies or a box of chocolate. Jean is the baking king of the department, Kathy always brings the extra sweets she baked for her kid’s school activities, and Nancy, Céline, Ada and Catherine make occasional contributions.

Now being a food blogger you would think I bring something every week. Not the case, I have been slacking and I have been reprimanded by my coworkers lol. I live alone so I don’t bake a lot. So I was going to make 100% certain that the recipe I would choose for this SRC would be a treat I could bring in to work and share. The consensus on the Brown Sugar Fudge: they all went berzerk!

Ξ Nanny’s Brown Sugar Fudge Ξ
recipe from Mae Iris Whitton – Shelby’s precious Nanny

  • 2-1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Walnuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients 1 though 4 in a saucepan.
  2. Get your candy thermometer out. Cook over medium heat until sugar boils and reaches the Soft Boil stage, or 234 F.
  3. Remove from heat and add butter without stirring it in. Don’t stir!
  4. Leave the pan alone until the mixture cools down to 110 F. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Beat with a wooden spoon until it looses it’s shininess (or goes from translucent to kinda opaque).
  5. Line a loaf pan (8×4) with parchment paper and pour into greased pan as quickly as possible before it sets. Let it set in the fridge for a few hours before cutting into squares.

Let’s talk a bit about the science of cooking sugar. The cooking and beating are the critical stages to a good fudge. Cooking is required to dissolve the sugar crystals and to evaporate a portion of the water contained in the cream. This is the stage of cooking that determines the density of fudge. If there is too much evaporation (overcooking), the fudge will be hard. If there is not enough evaporation (cooking too short), the fudge may be soft. For the right consistency the preparation must reach 234-239 F.

While cooking you must bring the sugar and cream to a boil and then STOP STIRRING. Why? If any crystals are present in the preparation, like on the walls of the pan, these crystals may fall in the preparation and re-crystallize some of the sugar. At least this is true during the evaporation process.

Once the fudge is cooked, you have to re-crystallize the sugar to form the “fudge”. The idea is to form many small crystals that are barely perceptible on the tongue. It is this step that determines the size of sugar crystals. The trick is to let the syrup cool to a temperature of 110-122 F before beating it. Once it has cooled to the right temperature, stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken and loose its sheen. Stop beating and pour into you pan as soon as possible.

And as promised earlier, here is the traditional Quebec sweet candy recipe:

Ξ Sucre à la Crême Ξ

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup 35% cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Walnuts (optional)

The preparation is absolutely identical so follow the directions of the Brown Sugar Fudge.




Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake

Lately, reading my favorite food blogs has been a guaranteed catalyst to get into the holiday mood. Blogs of Thanksgiving feasts are the kick in the rump I need right now since Montreal is not showing any signs yet of a white Christmas – or what ever holiday you celebrate. But I know one morning soon I will open the curtains of my bedroom window and feel the sudden urge to hang my mistletoe.

Thankfully the holiday cheer is quite present in the kitchen. The wonderful people at Faye Clack invited me to participate in a fun contest hosted by California Walnuts. The theme: coming up with a completely original recipe that screams holiday gatherings and winter entertaining.

 

I humbly present you my entry post for the California Walnuts Holiday Blogger Challenge: my Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake.

Coming up with an original recipe with walnuts is not exactly a small feat! We are talking about a very popular nut here that graces most holiday recipes. This was a perplexing challenge, until I opened my kitchen cupboard and a bag of matcha powder fell out, bringing on inspiration.

Visions of sugar plums and fairies…oh wait that is the Nutcracker. Visions of a sliced fruitcake with gorgeous chunks of red cherries and chocolate coated walnuts dances in my head…all of it wrapped up in a melt in your mouth matcha fudge. I wanted to reinvent the fruit cake. To achieve my pale green fudge color I chose a basic white fudge recipe where I added a touch of matcha powder.

 

Ξ Matcha Fudge Fruit Cake Ξ

Ingredients:

250 gr dark chocolate
1 cup California Walnuts
3/4 cup maraschino cherries
500g white chocolate, chopped
1-300ml can of condensed milk
30gr of butter
2 teaspoons matcha powder

 

Directions:

  1. Melt dark chocolate in a bowl. Dip the walnuts in the melted chocolate one by one plan place on a wrack to let excess chocolate drip off. Place the chocolate covered walnuts  in the fridge to harden
  2. Drain and dry cherries on a couple of layers of paper towels.
  3. Line with cheesecloth a 25cm x 10cm (10” x 4”) loaf pan. Make sure the cheesecloth hangs over the edged of the pan.
  4. Place all the white chocolate, condensed milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Microwave for 30 another seconds.
  5. Remove, add the matcha powder and stir well. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir completely.
  6. Add cherries, chocolate covered walnuts and stir once very fast (stir too much and the dark chocolate will melt).
  7. Quickly poor mixture into the loaf pan, fold the cheesecloth over the top and press down to level the top.
  8. Set fudge in the fridge for 8 hours. Remove from pan and slice.

I was absolutely thrilled the results. The matcha flavor was subtle, the cherries were a juicy surprise and the chocolate covered walnuts gave the perfect amount of crunch. This makes a big log of fudge so you can slice it up, take what you need to a few parties and then just freeze the rest. Happy Holidays!

Happy Labor Day

No recipe or food today, just wanted to share a few off beat, unusual and accidental pics I have taken lately.

Herb scissors my mom got as a hostess gift

Pit pit, I want some too!

Schedule of a popular ice cream shop

A electronic wine menu with white light at La Coupole – fancy shmancy

Trying to take a pic of huge Fudge Sausages in a store but got also the full reflection of an old house in the old part of Quebec City – very cool!

Toronto with friends & dodging Niagara’s tourist traps

Here is one of 2 food posts dedicated to the food we enjoyed on our New Year’s escapade. This one will cover most of what we ate but the second post will be a restaurant review….and just you wait and see this place ha!

Now if you expected a gourmet blog post on Niagara here, well sorry to say you will be sorely disappointed. As I have mentioned before Niagara Falls has the Falls and then a fake tourist trap town filled with cheesy attractions. Now don’t get me wrong….go with the right attitude and you will have a blast. We played a round of glow in the dark mini golf, did a haunted house, went on a moving theater ride, played amusement park type games to win tickets in exchange for trinkets.

Food was tricky though: either you get fast food or you pay an arm an a leg. The middle ground is almost non existent and forget finding a quaint little family run restaurant, it is mostly chains. But we managed pretty well and ate well enough with a few awesome surprises. From the falling apart decor and rickety tables to the nice sophisticated places with modern dining room furniture here is my photo essay on some of what we ate.

First place I MUST mention is Tim Hortons. It is in fact the quintessential road trip food. In Canada this is where you get your coffee and sugar rush. They also serve the cheapest lunch I can think of if you take the chicken salad sandwich combo with coffee and a doughnut…like $5.02 tax in. BUT they are everywhere. They plague the scenery I could not handle seeing one more Tim Horton sign. OK its a chip on my shoulder lol.

Our first dinner was at Tony Romas. Nice place, super friendly staff, house wine is from the Niagara region. We had the all you can eat Beef short ribs for $15.99, a rather unbeatable price in Niagara for the meal we had. I did find the short ribs dry but they are short ribs so hard to keep moist.

Remember how gaudy I said Niagara Falls can be on my vineyard touring post? We here is quite the ultimate expression of it. Next to Burger King is the Frankenstein Haunted house….and the birth of a perfect marketing ploy. I LOVE it!

At the Fudge Factory you can watch the guy prepare the fudge before it is packed into molds. Yes (sorry for this bad joke a head of time) he is a fudge packer! We tried a piece of the Bailey’s fudge, yumm!

And now for the breakfast of champions! I insisted kindly not to be dragged to a chain place for breakfast. We eventually stopped at the Continental Pancake House. This is an unpretentious family style restaurant where everything is made from scratch. The pancakes are HUGE and fluffy, Stef loved the sausages. We we very pleased and the service was so friendly. Though there is a limited all you can eat breakfast for like 7$ since we ordered à la carte it somehow ended up costing about $40 for breakfast. A bit steep!

Our second night here was our fancy dinner. I was not told where we were going as it was a surprise. Where did we go? Red Lobster. Wait I know what you are thinking, but remember this is a tourist town and this is a middle ground price restaurant. I mean our main plates were still like $25 each. We are traveling on a budget here. Red Lobsters left Quebec a while back so for us this is a treat. We each had a triple seafood combo plate, coconut shrimp appetizer, and a MASSIVE pina colada for 2. The shrimps were all excellent but my lobster tale, meh, OK.

Our last morning in Niagara was a late departure and we decided on coffee and a doughnut and just have lunch later. Today we would drive to Toronto for New Year’s Eve to my friend’s place. Of wineries were part of the expedition. But back to breakfast. So we ended up stopping at a place called Country Fresh Donuts on the outskirts of town. A really odd ball place apparently specialized in donuts and Asian sop bowls…and popular and run by Asians. Apparently this is a real local gem. And the doughnuts…the BEST EVER. This was a cinnamon twist I shot in the car. So light and so good. I wish we had bought like a dozen.

Ah, finally made it to my friend Susan’s place were we would welcome the New Year over a home meal. She and her roomie prepared a great cheese themed dinner with homemade macaroni and cheese, a lovely phyllo cup filled with goat cheese, garlic shrimps and a cheese cake. Let me tell you around 3 or 4 am the macaroni and cheese came were back out for second helpings!

And we had lots to drink! Some bubbly with the meal, some bubbly at midnight, a bit of wine and a few cocktails. The last shot on the right is bubbly with a strawberry and a Lindt Chocolate. Sounds weird but is was good. Want to try a new cocktail? This is my new fave:

RedHeaded Slut (I swear it’s the official name)

Mix in a glass 1 ounce of Peach Schnapps, 1 ounce of Jagermeister and top off with cranberry juice.

On our final night we all went for a last dinner before our return home the next day. Toronto’s Chinatown was our destination. Our host would not stop talking about Kom Jug Yuen on Spadina as the best place for Chinese with incredible BBQ pork. Very low key decor and simple place. You MUST have the BBQ Pork. This was the best Chinese food I have ever eaten and it cost 60$ with the tip and tax for 5 people.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour of some of the food I enjoyed over the holiday trip. I will have one more Toronto food post coming, a restaurant review, that you will not want to miss so come back soon. A hint: this place has been called Toronto’s least healthy restaurant.