Thursday, December 22, 2011

Salty, Sweet, Fast and Easy

Is there a more perfect combination of words this time of year than salty, sweet, fast and easy?  Ok, any time of year.

I stumbled across this tag on Pinterest, and knew I'd have to make these.  Oh, and if you haven't yet discovered Pinterest, you need to get on over there and join in on the best time-sucking activity since facebook.  Or random blogs.  Anyway, Pinterest is where it's at these days.

So, fast and easy?  Yes.  Probably the most time consuming aspect of making these is unwrapping all the hershey kisses.  And maybe that won't take you as long, if you don't eat one for every one you put on top of a pretzel like I did.

You'll need pretzels, hershey kisses, and m&m's; that's it.

If you can find round pretzels, as used in the original recipe, I think that would work best.  But if you can't, not to worry.  I made mine with regular mini pretzels and they came out fine.  And I used both peanut and regular m&m's.

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.  Lay the pretzels out on a cookie sheet; I used a silpat, to make clean-up a bit easier.  Top each pretzel with a kiss.

Heat in the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until the chocolate has become soft.  Don't overcook or you'll ruin the texture of the chocolate.

Remove from the oven and press an m&m onto the top of each kiss, smooshing the kiss down into the pretzel.  Let cool at room temperature until the chocolate is firm again.  You may need to eat a few while they're cooling, to test the firmness of the chocolate.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Cake Pops

When Brad and I were planning our wedding earlier this year, we met Rachael Teufel with Intricate Icings Cake Design at the one and only bridal show I drug him to (yes, he was just about the only groom in attendance).  Rachael is a true artist of Food Network Challenge cred, but what impressed us most was her cake--and, in particular, her cake pops--tasted out of this world delicious.

Food and wine were the two most important things to us for our wedding reception, and Brad and I had at that point already tasted so many beautiful dessert options that ranged from mediocre to just plain awful.  We found that for so many gorgeous creations, appearance trumped flavor.

We wanted both, and Rachael delivered.

So when Intricate Icings offered a holiday cake pop decorating class, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from Rachael even though my schedule has been beyond ridiculous lately.  The class was loads of fun (she had wine!), and Rachael is a natural instructor.  I'll definitely return to take whatever classes she offers in the future.  

Oh, and I came home with an assortment of beautiful cake pops, so Brad was happy too.

These are my creations.  Reindeer, penguins, snowmen, Santa hats, Christmas trees, and a few plain old sprinkly pops.

The basic recipe for cake pops is easy:  A baked and cooled cake (Rachael had a single 8 or 9-inch round there to demonstrate) and some kind of binder, combined in a stand mixer.  Rachael used cream cheese frosting--1/2 to 1 cup, to achieve a workable consistency.  I think cream cheese frosting is a great choice, to add creaminess without too much sweetness, but I'm looking forward to experimenting with other kinds of binders as well.

To close, here's a photo of the beautiful display Racheal prepared for our wedding reception. 

We had a carrot cutting cake, with coconut and pecans and cream cheese filling. 

The cupcakes were chocolate with chocolate mousse filling and vanilla with creme brule filling, all iced with white buttercream.

The cake pops were zucchini lime and pumpkin spice.

Although we cut the carrot cake, it was a little high in the tier to easily remove a slice for the ceremonial tasting.  And since I'd already tumbled a passed appetizer down the front of my dress when we first arrived at the reception, I was feeling a bit paranoid.

So we used a cupcake instead.  

And it was perfect.