Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Miniature Caramel Apples

Miniature Caramel Apples(c) 2009 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

Miniature Caramel Apples prove that big taste can come in a small package! Small balls of apples are dunked in chocolate, then given a coating of smooth, chewy caramel. They’re as delicious as they are adorable, and they make the perfect party appetizer or favor.

It’s not traditional to coat apples with candy coating before covering them with caramel, but in this recipe it’s absolutely necessary. Without a protective coating, the moisture in the apples causes the caramel to slide right off. This recipe yields between 12-16 mini apples, depending on the size of your scoop and your apples.


  • 2 large apples
  • 1 cup candy coating, flavor of your choice (chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, etc)
  • 10 oz soft caramels
  • 1.5 tbsp cream or water
  • Toothpicks or lollipop sticks
  • Nuts, sprinkles, or candy for decoration (optional)


1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and set aside for now.

2. Use a melon baller or small candy scoop to carve small round balls out of the apples, making sure to always have one surface with apple skin. Pat the apple balls very, very well, getting them as dry as possible. Place the apple balls skin-side up and insert the toothpicks or lollipop sticks into the top.

3. Melt the candy coating in the microwave and stir until smooth. Dip each apple briefly in the coating, making sure that the coating extends to where the skin of the apple is, so that the moisture in the apple flesh is completely sealed in. Place them on the baking sheet. Once all the apples are dipped, refrigerate them until the coating is set.

4. While waiting for the coating to set, prepare the caramel. Place the unwrapped caramels and the cream or water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until completely melted. Allow it to cool, stirring occasionally, until it is still warm and pourable but no longer hot to the touch.

5. Once the caramel is melted and the coating on the apples is set, it is time to cover the apples with caramel. This can be tricky because the coating will start to melt if exposed to hot caramel, but if the caramel has cooled down it is difficult to manipulate. The following method works best for me: lay some waxed paper or foil on your work station and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Place big spoonfuls of caramel on the foil, and use your hands (sprayed with nonstick spray) to pat them into thin circles. Pick up a circle and wrap it around the apple, pulling and patching it with your fingers as necessary. Wet your fingers occasionally to prevent the caramel from sticking to your hands. If the caramel has cooled enough it should be easy to manipulate in this way, and this method ensures a smooth and even coating of caramel that does not melt the candy coating.

6. If desired, dip the bottoms of the caramel apples in chopped nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, or sprinkles. Place the apples in the refrigerator to set the caramel, and if necessary, use your hands to re-shape any droopy apples before serving. Miniature Caramel Apples are best the day they are made, but if they have been properly assembled, they will keep for an additional day or two in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Coconut Burfi

Okay, okay, let's get all the childish jokes out of the way first. Yes, today's candy is called "burfi," and yes, it's sometimes spelled "barfi." I'll wait...done? Done now? Good.

The term burfi refers to a number of different sweets in Indian cuisine. Sometimes it's made with carrots, sometimes coconut, sometimes neither. This version is an easy cream-based candy called Coconut Burfi. It has lots of flavor from ground coconut and walnuts, and is subtly scented with ground cardamom. If you've made old-fashioned fudge before, the kind that crumbles a little when you cut it, you'll be familiar with the texture of this burfi. It's homey and comforting and a nice accompaniment to a mug of afternoon tea.

Get the recipe: Coconut Burfi

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Coconut Burfi Photo c2009 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

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Polish Chocolate Plums

Polish Chocolate Plums are a simple recipe featuring dried plums, toasted almonds, and rich semi-sweet chocolate. This recipe is based on a traditional Polish sweet called Sliwka Naleczowska w Czekoladzie, but you can call them "delicious" in any language.

Don't believe me? Still a little scared of all of those consonants? Here are a few things readers have said in their reviews of this recipe: "Delicious! "So easy to make! More nutritious than most sweets." and "I made these and they were so easy and taste great! I would never buy them in the store again." You don't have to take my word for it--try them yourself!

Get the recipe: Polish Chocolate Plums

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Polish Chocolate Plums Photo c2009 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

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Glazed Strawberries

glazed strawberries(c) 2007 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

Glazed strawberries are fresh berries coated with a shiny candy shell, and they make a gorgeous decorative addition to a fruit platter, fruit tart, or berry cake. They are also delicious on their own, and this glazing recipe can be used to coat orange slices, grapes, or a variety of other fruits. Be aware that this candy should be enjoyed within an hour or two of preparation, because the moisture of the fruit quickly makes the candy shell become sticky.


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 lb fresh strawberries, stems on


1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Wash the strawberries and dry them carefully.

3. Prepare an ice bath by placing ice and cold water in a bowl large enough to hold your intended saucepan.

4. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Insert a candy thermometer, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

5. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 300 degrees on the candy thermometer. During this process, which can take from 10-20 minutes, wash down the sides of the saucepan occasionally with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystallization.

6. Once the candy has reached 300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat immediately, and immerse the bottom in the prepared ice bath to stop it from cooking any further.. Do not let the ice water get into the candy!

7. Once the candy has stopped cooking (look for the bubbles to stop rising from the bottom of the pan), you can begin to dip your berries. Holding a strawberry by the stem, dip it until it is almost submerged in the candy. Be careful not to touch the candy, as it is very hot and can cause dangerous burns. Remove the berry from the candy and allow the excess to drip off the end. Turn it a few times to ensure excess candy is removed, then place it on the prepared, oiled baking sheet.

8. Repeat with remaining berries and candy. Allow the candy to set at room temperature, and serve berries within an hour or two of their preparation.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Homemade Condensed Milk

Homemade Condensed Milk(c) 2011 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

Sweetened Condensed Milk is easy to make at home! All you need are four ingredients and a blender, and you can make this baking staple in just a few minutes.

Prep Time: 5?minutes

Total Time: 5?minutes

Yield: 1.5 cups


  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) melted butter


1. Place the dry milk, granulated sugar, 1/3 cup of the boiling water, and the melted butter in a blender.

2. Blend all ingredients together until they are smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender occasionally to get all the dry ingredients incorporated.

3. Condensed milk typically has a thick, syrupy consistency, but if your homemade condensed milk is too thick to pour easily, add another spoonful or two of boiling water and blend to incorporate. Adjust the water until you are happy with the consistency.

4. Use your homemade sweetened condensed milk right away, or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It will get thicker when it is refrigerated, but will loosen up when stirred and brought to room temperature.

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Orange Hazelnut Clusters

The last time I made a batch of candied citrus peel, I decided to deviate from my usual modus operandi (that would be dunking it in chocolate and eating it hand over fist, naturally) I decided to go to a bit more effort and use it in a new candy. The emphasis in that last phrase should be on a bit more work, because the resulting Orange Hazelnut Clusters barely caused me to break a sweat. The plump, tangy candied citrus peel was finely chopped, along with some toasted hazelnuts, and both were mixed into melted bittersweet chocolate. I then made clusters (the refuge of the lazy cook) by dropping spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet. And voila, 5 minutes after I'd started, I had my candy!

The bad news is that I eat this as voraciously as I eat regular chocolate-dipped orange peel, but the good news is that it's so easy to make, I can whip up more and no one will be the wiser.

Get the recipe: Orange Hazelnut Clusters

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Orange Hazelnut Clusters Photo c2012 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

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Holla for Halvah! Halvah (or halva, halava, helava, helva, halwa, halua...and about a million other variations--whew!) can refer to a wide variety of Middle Eastern sweets. Some are based on flour, nuts, or even vegetables and beans, but I prefer the kind that has a sesame seed base. My Halvah recipe uses tahini, which is a sesame seed paste commonly used in hummus. The tahini has a nutty, mild flavor and a really rich texture, so the halvah is creamy and flavorful.

Don't worry if this is all sounding a bit too savory--since this is a candy there is plenty of sugar, too! I also add nuts and vanilla extract for extra flavor. Pistachios are the traditional nut of choice, but almonds also work well. Want a bit more sweetness? Try adding some grated chocolate at the end!

Get the recipe: Halvah

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Halvah Photo c2009 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

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Mango Pâtes de Fruits

Mango Pate de Fruit photo(c) 2011 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

These chewy fruit squares are vibrant with the fresh taste of mango. The mango pulp used in this recipe can be purchased frozen from a supermarket, or can be made at home by briefly cooking and mashing fresh mango chunks. Make sure you measure the mango once it has been liquified, and not in chunk form.

Prep Time: 10?minutes

Cook Time: 45?minutes

Total Time: 55?minutes


  • 14 oz mango pulp (about 1.5 cups)
  • 17 oz granulated sugar (about 2.5 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 fl oz liquid pectin (about 3/4 cup)


1. Prepare an 8x8-inch square pan by lining it with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spraying the bottom with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Cook mango pulp and sugar together in a medium saucepan over low heat until they form a very thick syrup. Depending on the thickness of your pulp, it will take between 30 minutes – 1 hour. The syrup should thickly coat the back of a spoon or spatula.

3. Once the syrup has thickened enough, add the butter and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the pectin while hot. Pour immediately into prepared pan.

5. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate overnight until set.

6. Once the candies are completely set, cut them into small squares with a knife dipped in water. They can be rolled in granulated sugar or left plain. The sugar makes them easier to store and stack, as it prevents them from sticking together.

7. Candies can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Note:Pectin is a jelling agent often used in canning. It can be found in well-stocked supermarkets near the canning supplies or in the baking section.

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Orange Flower Water Truffles

Here is what you do NOT do with orange flower water. You do not decide on the spur of the moment to make exotic miniature doughnuts with your new doughnut pan and your intrepid friend. You do not decide to fly by the seat of your pants and "just wing" the recipe for kumquat-orange blossom doughnuts, which recipe you and your friend randomly dreamed up during a long car ride. Never mind that this combination sounds kind of delicious. Don't do it. Most importantly, you do not get overly casual with the bottle of orange flower water and carelessly tip a teaspoon..or two...or possibly two and a half...into the small bowl of doughnut glaze you're mixing up. Finally, do not glaze all of your precious doughnuts with this glaze that now has such an overpowering flavor that it feels like a whole tree of orange blossoms punched you in the mouth. Heed my words, children, because I am speaking from experience. Disappointed, disgusted, doughnut-less experience.

Previous story notwithstanding, I am actually quite fond of orange flower water (also known as orange blossom water.) This unusual ingredient is common in Mideastern cooking and can be found in everything from beverages to desserts. It has a unique and irreplaceable flavor--somewhat citrusy, somewhat floral, very light and delicate but unmistakable. That is why I kept the bottle of orange flower water around after the Great Doughnut Debacle of 2011, and why I continue to use it in recipes.

Here is what you DO with orange flower water. You take some cream, and infuse it with lemon zest and a few fresh mint leaves. You mix the hot cream with chocolate, a little butter, and a small (small!) amount of orange flower water. A quick chill in the fridge, a dunk in chocolate, and you have successfully made Orange Flower Water Truffles! Believe me when I tell you that these are ever so much more delicious than the ill-fated kumquat-orange flower water doughnuts that shall not be named. They're fruity, floral, herbaceous, and utterly tasty. The friends I shared these with loved them, even though they couldn't put their finger on what flavor they were tasting. These truffles like to play coy, and when they taste so good, that is fine by me.

Get the recipe: Orange Flower Water Truffles

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Orange Flower Water Truffles Photo c2011 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Creme Eggs

When I die, I want my tombstone to say "Here Lies Elizabeth--She Never Met A Candy She Didn't Want to Copy." Obviously I want it to say other nice things, too, but that little blurb really sums up my life philosophy. If I can buy it in a store, I want to see if I can make a better version at home.

I've been toying with the idea of re-creating the famous Cadbury Easter egg for a few years, and I finally tackled it this year. I've had a recipe for "Fondant Eggs" on my site for awhile, and they were pretty good. They were suitably egg-shaped and had the obligatory egg white/yolk thing going on, but the major problem was that they never really liquefied. And as we all know, an egg is not a Cadbury egg until it has the gooey frosting center. So I put on my Mad Scientist Cap, turned to my good friend invertase, and Creme Eggs were born!

This candy starts out as a soft fondant, which allows you to mold the yolks and whites, and dip the eggs without any trouble. After they're dipped comes the hard part--the waiting! Invertase, the secret weapon, gradually liquefies the sugar in the fondant, turning the solid candy into a semi-solid goo that's oh-so-slurpable. If you can't find invertase, or don't want to wait for the liquefying process, the eggs are still a tasty, beautiful Easter treat.

Get the recipe: Creme Eggs

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Creme Eggs Photo c2012 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

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How to Make Pumpkin Cake Pops

Shape the Balls Into?Pumpkins

Halloween Pumpkin Cake Pops picture (c) 2010 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to, Inc.

Roll the balls between your palms to round them, then press them down slightly so that they're squat balls, similar to a pumpkin shape. Once all of the pumpkins are formed, place them on the prepared baking sheet and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.

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