As we are all bustling to finish Christmas activities like shopping and baking, I wanted to share a giveaway with you to make your baking a bit more enjoyable!  I picked up a few things that I think will help you to put fun new twists on recipes you already enjoy making or encourage you to break out of your box and try something new!

These Nordicware Mini Bundt and Tart pans would be perfect to make my Lemon Poppyseed Cakes or Lemon Tarts.


And to save you some time when making your holiday decorated sugar cookies, this Wilton cookie pan makes cookies that come out already shaped so that all you have to do is frost and decorate them.  No rolling out necessary.

And because sharing is my main reason for loving baking, I have included some mini cupcake liners and holiday treat boxes for you to deliver a surprise to someone who needs a little cheering up or extra attention during this time of year.

Finally, to inflict some of my cookbook obsession on you :), a cookbook entitled A Baker’s Field Guide to Holiday Candy & Confections by Dede Wilson.  There are not only Christmas treats in this book, but confections to make for every season and time of year.

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*This giveaway is sponsored by Satisfy My Sweet Tooth

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This week it snowed for the first time of the season!!!!  Yikes, I am so not ready for the extreme cold, but I do love cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and a hot cup of tea.  This week I had a major kitchen flop with some caramel rolls that I was sending to work with my husband that failed to raise.  Just when I thought I had conquered my fear of yeast, I have to have a mishap!  Oh well, you can’t win them all…

Here are the recipes that I shared with you this week:

Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus

and Pumpkin Streusel Bread.

I also am very excited to tell you about a wonderful tool that will be a valuable workhorse in your kitchen.  We already know that I would not know what to do without my KitchenAid Stand Mixer and I frequently use my regular KitchenAid Hand Mixer, but my new favorite appliance to use to blend soups, chop vegetables or mix pancake batter is KitchenAid’s 5-speed Hand Blender.

All of the attachments to the KitchenAid 5-speed Hand Blender are conveniently stored in the carrying case that has a perfect spot for everything.  One of my favorite features of this hand blender is that there is a blade cover that fits on top of each of the different blade attachments so that your pots are protected and will not get scratched as you are creaming  a soup or sauce.

How cool is the whisk attachment??  You can whip up fresh whipped cream for any dessert or have perfectly frothed egg whites for a meringue.  Even though the KitchenAid 5-speed Hand Blender is lightweight and easy to use, it has a very powerful motor so that you don’t need to worry about overworking the blender when you are blending up a smoothie or making fresh salsa.  Some small kitchen appliances can be a nuisance to clean, but not this blender.  All of the removable parts are dishwasher safe, but I always hand wash the different pieces because all of the blades and crevices are very easily accessible.  This KitchenAid 5-speed Hand Blender would make a great gift for a graduate heading off to college since it functions as multiple appliances or for anyone who likes efficiency and quality in the kitchen.

*KitchenAid provided me with the 5-speed Hand Blender for review, but all opinions are, as always, my own.

Butterscotch Chip Cookie Cake from Cassie at Bake Your Day.  I love butterscotch anything and the way she describes the buttery texture of this giant cookie made me salivate just reading it!

Loaded Apple Cider Oatmeal Muffins from How Sweet It Is.  The photo of this steaming apple cider instantly draws you in and these muffins just scream fall.

And last, but not least this Fall Chicken Salad from Emily at A Nutritionist Eats.  I love chicken salad, but sometimes feel guilty about the heavy mayo content.  In true, nutritionist eats’ style, Emily has lightened this salad up without sacrificing on kicked up, flavorful ingredients.

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Why in the world would I decide to stand over a pot of boiling sugar on one of the hottest days of the summer??  You got me.  Sometimes I just think I am a glutton for punishment.  Or it’s just my serious addiction to challenging myself in the kitchen and seeing how much I can take before I start crying out of frustration.

I am happy to report that this particular experiment induced no tears or temper tantrums.  I have had caramel and fudge making sessions that make me want to throw my pans away and tell them that I will not play with them anymore.

I have always heard about how fussy Almond Roca/Homemade Heath Bars/Buttercrunch or whatever you choose to call the light and airy toffee coated with chocolate and sliced almonds is to make and so I was not expecting success on my first try.  This candy also seems like a Christmas confection to me, so I guess I was craving Christmas in July when I set out to make this buttery, sweet and slightly salty Buttercrunch.

I think the other reason I was excited to make this candy was that I recently received a Thermapen which if you are not familiar, is super fast digital thermometer that is highly accurate.  What I noticed about the Thermapen that is different than other thermometers that I have used is that even if I removed the thermometer from the candy and it cooled, almost immediately when I replaced it in the boiling sugar, it was giving me an accurate reading.  The reason that a quick and accurate temperature read is so important when making candy is that sugar goes from perfectly caramelized to scorched and bitter in a matter of seconds.  I also love the convenience of not having a cord that gets in my way while I am trying to be precise and quick.  The Thermapen is cordless and folds up compactly so that it is easy to keep track of in my kitchen gadget drawer.  I honestly feel that I owe much of my rookie success with making Buttercrunch to this extremely helpful kitchen tool!  Check out the Thermoworks company that makes the Thermapen here!

Chocolate Almond Buttercrunch

by Mercedes Porter

Keywords: dessert snack chocolate nuts candy

Ingredients (1 12X16-inch baking sheet)

  • 1 cup (16 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups milk chocolate chips

Instructions

Generously grease a 12X16-inch jelly roll pan.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.

Stir sugar, water and corn syrup into the melted butter and bring the mixture to a boil.  Allow the mixture to boil over medium heat until the temperature reaches 300 degrees on a thermometer.  This will take about 20 minutes.

While the mixture is boiling, spread half of the nuts and chocolate chips onto the greased pan in a single layer.

When the sugar mixture reaches 300 degrees, immediately pour it over the layer of chocolate and almonds.

Quickly top with remaining chocolate chips and almonds as evenly as possible.

After a few minutes, the hot candy will melt the chocolate and you can use a heat-resistant rubber spatula to spread the top chocolate layer smooth.

Allow to cool completely, then invert pan onto a clean counter and break candy into desired-sized pieces.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

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 melt butter 

stir in water, sugar and corn syrup

bring mixture a boil and boil until mixture reaches 300 degrees

(I am aware that my thermometer does not read the desired temperature of 300 degrees in this photo, but I wanted to take a photo while I had time before the critical temperature was reached!)

while sugar mixture is boiling, spread half of almonds and half of chocolate chips onto greased pan

as soon as sugar mixture reaches 300 degrees, pour carefully onto pan over almonds and chocolate chips

sprinkle remaining almonds and chocolate chips over hot candy

after a few minutes, use spatula to spread melted chocolate evenly over candy

invert pan of candy carefully onto clean countertop and break into pieces

This candy would make wonderful gifts for the holidays, host(ess) gifts or a nice treat to send home with your party guests so that they think of the amazing party you hosted for them!

*Note:  Thermoworks provided me with a Thermapen to try and review, but all opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

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