Easy Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Ganache | Pinky's Pantry
Chocolate Ganache is used as a filling, a frosting, or a glaze for cakes and pastries. It’s very easy to prepare. This recipe is wonderful made with a good quality chocolate like Scharffenberger chocolate, but it’s just as good made with chocolate chips.

Make sure the chopping board, bowl, and utensils you use are completely dry because water will cause the chocolate to seize when it’s melted. Also when working with ganache, bear in mind that while it’s warm, it’s liquid and pourable, but it thickens and firms as it cools. If you need to soften it, just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds and stir.

EASY CHOCOLATE GANACHE

  • 8 ozs. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)
  1. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, heat cream and butter until it just comes to a simmer.
  3. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes.
  4. Slowly stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Don’t whisk vigorously. You don’t want to whip air into it.

NOTE:

  • This recipe makes enough ganache to cover one 9-inch cake.
  • The ganache may be made up to 1 week ahead. Refrigerate in an airtight container and bring to room temperature before using.

Halloween Fondant Ghosts

Fondant Ghost1 | Pinky's Pantry
To add to the treats I was making for the kids this Halloween, I decided to make some fondant ghosts. You can make your own homemade fondant like I did, or buy ready-made fondant. Obviously, homemade marshmallow fondant tastes a hundred times better than the store bought kind, but it can be a pain to make so it’s entirely up to you. The ghost bodies underneath the fondant are made by stacking chocolate candies that you “glue” together with melted chocolate chips. Whether you choose to make your own fondant or buy the ready-made kind, assembling these ghosts is definitely easy and fun to do! They look adorable on your Halloween table, too.

HALLOWEEN FONDANT GHOSTS

  • 1 recipe marshmallow fondant (or you can buy ready-made white fondant)
  • 1 bag Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups
  • 1 box Whoppers malted milk balls
  • 2-3 tbsp. chocolate chips, to use as “glue”
  • powdered sugar or cornstarch, for dusting
  • 1 tube of black ready-to-use decorating icing
  1. Heat chocolate chips in microwave in 30-second increments until completely melted.
  2. Smear a little melted chocolate on top of a Reese’s peanut butter cup and press a second cup on top of it. This is your ghost’s body.
    Fondant Ghost2 | Pinky's Pantry
  3. Next, smear a little dollop of melted chocolate on a Whopper and press it onto your peanut butter cup stack. This is your ghost’s head.
  4. Knead the fondant till it’s soft and pliable.
  5. Dust work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch.
  6. Pull off a piece of fondant and cover the rest with a damp towel. I like to work with fondant in small batches to keep the big piece of fondant from drying out.
    Fondant Ghost3| Pinky's Pantry
  7. Roll out the piece of fondant you pulled to a little less than a quarter inch thick.
  8. Cut out 4½-inch circles from the fondant.
    Fondant Ghost4 | Pinky's Pantry
  9. Break off another piece of fondant, roll, and cut out more circles.
  10. Repeat till you have the number of circles you need for however many ghosts you’re making.
  11. Drape a fondant circle over a chocolate stack, arranging it so it drapes in nice folds.
    Fondant Ghost5 | Pinky's Pantry
  12. Pipe two eyes with black decorating icing. If desired, you could add an “O” shaped mouth as well.
    Fondant Ghost6 | Pinky's Pantry
  13. These ghosts can be served as is, or use them as cupcake toppers or to decorate a cake.
    Fondant Ghost7 | Pinky's Pantry

Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops

Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
I decided to make some marshmallow pops for the kids this Halloween. I’d seen a picture somewhere of cupcakes decorated with a Frankenstein head which gave me the inspiration for these Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops. They were fun to make. Just plan on giving yourself a little time to let the corn syrup dry after you roll the sugar onto the marshmallows and to let the icing dry after you pipe on the hair and faces. If you can start making these a day or two before you want to hand them out, all the better.

Also, having the right piping tips makes easy work of piping Frank’s hair and face. I used a “grass” tip to do the hair and a fine round tip to pipe his eyes and mouth. I also found this bottle of Wilton bug sprinkles at my local grocery store which I thought would be perfect to use for Frank’s bolts. If you can’t find the same bug sprinkles, you can use candy coated licorice which will be just as cute.
Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry

FRANKENSTEIN MARSHMALLOW POPS

  • 1 bag marshmallows
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • green decorating sugar
  • store bought green, black, and red icing
  • Wilton bug sprinkles, for bolts (or could subsitute black candy coated licorice)
  • lollipop sticks
  1. Lightly brush bottom and sides of a marshmallow with corn syrup. No need to brush the top of the marshmallow because it will be covered with icing “hair.”
  2. Press the bottom and roll the sides in green sugar until well coated.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  3. Set aside to dry for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Once dry, stab a lollipop stick into the sugar-coated bottom of each marshmallow.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  5. Cut some green Rips candy into small strips to use for Frankenstein’s brow.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's PantryFrankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  6. Glue the brow to the top of each marshmallow with green icing.
  7. Using a grass piping tip, pipe hair onto the top of each marshmallow by squeezing a little icing out, then stopping and pulling straight up.
  8. Switch to a small round decorating tip and pipe eyes and a mouth with black icing.
  9. Change to red icing and pipe a little scar on Frank’s cheek.
    Frankenstein Marshmallow Pops | Pinky's Pantry
  10. Push a little bug sprinkle into each side of the marshmallow for bolts.

    Bug Sprinkles | Pinky's Pantry

    These are the Wilton bug sprinkles I found that I thought would make perfect “bolts.”

Sweet and Saltines

Sweet and Saltines | Pinky's PantryThis strange sounding recipe is one of Trisha Yearwood’s. I watched her make it on TV and immediately rushed to the kitchen to try making it myself. O-M-G!!! It was sooo good! The family loved it! Such an unusual recipe and surprisingly yummy! And the best part…. it was super easy to make. You’ve just got to try this one.

SWEET AND SALTINES

  • 35 to 40 saltine crackers
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 8 ozs. semisweet chocolate chips (about 1⅓ cups)
  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Line 1 large or 2 small jelly­roll pans with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Arrange the saltines salt­ side down in a single layer.
  4. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together and boil for a few minutes until it turns a caramel color.
  5. Remove from heat and pour over the crackers, covering them evenly.
  6. Put the jelly­roll pan into the oven and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just bubbly, watching carefully so as not to burn.
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the crackers.
    Sweet and Saltines | Pinky's Pantry
  8. Wait a minute or so and when the heat melts the chips a bit, spread the chocolate over the crackers with a knife or an offset spatula.
    Sweet and Saltines | Pinky's Pantry
  9. Place the pan in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until completely cold. They will form one solid sheet.
    Sweet and Saltines | Pinky's Pantry
  10. Break up into pieces.
    Sweet and Saltines | Pinky's Pantry
  11. Store in an airtight container. That is…… assuming you have any left to store!

Browned Butter Toffee Tartlets

Browned Butter Toffee Tartlets | Pinky's PantryI’ve had this recipe a long time. I don’t remember where I got it. It’s probably from one of my old cookbooks, though I don’t remember which one. I made it once years ago and then never made it again. For the life of me, I don’t know why. They were a hit when I made them all those years go. These tartlets are not only yummy, but they’re super-duper easy to make. The recipe makes a lot, too, which is perfect for a party or get-together.
Browned Butter Toffee Tartlets | Pinky's Pantry

BROWNED BUTTER TOFFEE TARTLETS

  • 3 pkgs. (15 pcs. each) baked miniature phyllo dough shells
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsps. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup toffee pieces
  • 2 ozs. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place phyllo dough shells on a cookie sheet.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; then reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Continue to cook, without stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until butter becomes brown and fragrant.
  5. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt. Whisk vigorously to combine.
  7. Whisk browned butter into egg mixture.
  8. Stir in toffee pieces.
  9. Spoon filling into tartlet shells.
  10. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until tops are light brown.
  11. Transfer carefully to wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  12. Melt chocolate in microwave in 30-second increments, stirring until smooth.
  13. Drizzle melted chocolate on top of cooled tartlets in any design you want.
  14. Let stand until set.

NOTE:

  • You should get at least 40 tartlets (if not more) from this recipe, depending on how full you fill the shells.
  • If you can’t get toffee pieces, you can substitute chocolate-covered toffee candybars, like Skor, Heath or Daim, and chop them up.
  • To store, layer tartets between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw tartlets at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche | Pinky's PantryDulce de Leche is a South American caramel confection. It’s made by cooking sweetened condensed milk until the sugar is caramelized and the milk is thickened and brownish in color. I remember my Mom boiling an unopened can of condensed milk for what seemed like hours on the stove. Of course we all grew up hearing the horror stories and dire warnings of how you should be careful because the can could explode, but none of that ever seemed to matter. What was most important was getting a taste of that sweet, thick, and sticky treat. I remember how awfully hard it was to wait for it to be ready, and even harder to wait for it to cool! But you had to let it cool before you could open the can or the dulce would spurt out and could burn you. We would eat it by the teaspoonful, carefully eking it out and eating it ever so slowly to make it last as long as possible because Mom would never let us have more than 2 little spoonfuls of it in one day.

There are many different ways to make your own dulce de leche at home. You could do like my Mom always did and boil an unopened can of condensed milk on the stove for 2 or 3 hours. You could bake an unopened can in a water bath in the oven; or cook a can in a pressure cooker; or cook it in a slow cooker; or open a can, empty the milk into a pot and cook the milk over the stove, stirring till your arm falls off (don’t ask me how I know). Why, I’ve heard you could even make it in a microwave!

My favorite method is super easy and doesn’t involve any risk of explosion or having your arm fall off. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

HOMEMADE DULCE DE LECHE

  1. Empty 1 can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  2. Cover pie plate tightly with foil.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  3. Make a water bath by placing a pan larger than the pie plate into the oven and filling it with enough water to go 3/4 up the side of the pie plate.
  4. Place pie plate in center of water bath and bake at 400ºF for 1½ hours or so, adding water as needed. The longer you cook it, the darker the caramel gets.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  5. Remove foil. The edges are usually more cooked than the center so take a wire whisk and whisk everything together until it’s well-combined and smooth.
    Dulce de Leche | Pinky's Pantry
  6. Pour into a clean jar and allow to cool before using.
  7. Store dulce de leche in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Snowman Hat Cookies

Snowman Hats | Pinky's Pantry
These are just the cutest little cookies and are perfect for a Christmas buffet table or for taking to a Christmas cookie exchange. With only a handful of ingredients, they’re so easy to put together. The little sprinkles add the crowning touch that makes them absolutely adorable!
Snowman Hats | Pinky's Pantry

SNOWMAN HAT COOKIES

  • Oreo fudge creme cookies
  • marshmallows
  • chocolate chips
  • green christmas tree sprinkles
  • red dot sprinkles
  1. Melt about half a cup of chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave.
    NOTE:  Chocolate will cool while you’re working and will start to harden as it cools. Just re-heat in microwave for 30 seconds or so to re-melt.
  2. Lightly dip just the very bottom of a marshmallow into the melted chocolate.
  3. Press the marshmallow on top of an Oreo cookie and allow chocolate to set.
  4. Dip the top of the marshmallow into the melted chocolate leaving a white band between the oreo and the chocolate.
  5. Set aside to dry.
  6. Put a tiny dab of chocolate behind a christmas tree sprinkle and 3 red dot sprinkles and “glue” to white band on hat to resemble holly.

Almond Butter Toffee

Almond Butter Toffee | Pinky's PantryMy sister, Kitty, is getting married on December 1st. We’re all so happy for her and Bryan. They’re getting married in Jamaica which is somewhere I’ve never been so I’m really excited! It’s going to be a blast! Anyway, Kitty asked me if I could make some “homemade almond roca” to put in little bags for her giveaways. My mom used to make it once in a while when we were kids but I never made it myself. Sadly, I never got Mom’s recipe.

Well, I told Kitty I would try to see if I could make some for her wedding so I searched through my cookbook collection and ended up combining parts of different recipes to come up with this one. I made a few batches and they turned out great! I did decide I like it better with milk chocolate, but some people prefer semi-sweet chocolate because it cuts down on the sweetness of the toffee. I also thought this candy was fabulous with milk chocolate and salted almonds! However, I know that not everyone is into the salty-sweet combination like I am, so I thought it might be better to play it safe for the wedding and just use plain, unsalted almonds. The recipe is truly yummy and oh-so-addictive! I can’t wait to see what Kitty and the wedding guests think!

Anyway, I learned a few tips and tricks from all my research and practice sessions so I thought I would share them here.

  1. Number one – Do not make this on a humid day! Humidity really affects the outcome of this candy and instead of getting a nice crunch, you could end up with a soft, grainy, or separated concoction. Put your ingredients away when it’s raining outside and wait for a sunny day.
  2. Get yourself a candy thermometer. You can make this toffee without one, but a thermometer takes the guesswork out of reaching the right temperature for the hard crack stage. I’m all for making your life easier!
  3. The temperature in the different recipes varied widely from 260ºF to 310ºF. I found that 300ºF to 305ºF worked best for me. You’ll have to see what temperature works best for you depending on the altitude where you live and stuff like that.
  4. If you’re not sure of the accuracy of your thermometer, you can test it by putting it in a pot of boiling water. It should reach 212ºF. If your thermometer is off by a degree or so, just adjust your recipe accordingly.

  5. Use a large, thick, heavy-bottomed pot to cook the candy in. As the mixture boils, it could increase to almost double in volume so you’ll want a large pot to make sure your mixture doesn’t boil over, plus it could help protect you from accidental spatters. The heavy bottom also helps prevent the sugar from burning.
  6. Cleaning up after making this candy is a breeze. Just fill the pot with hot water, put the thermometer and spoon in, and leave it all in the sink to soak. The sugar will dissolve after a while and you can then wash everything easily.
  7. Some recipes say to stir constantly while others say to cook the sugar without stirring at all! I’ve found that stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon helps keep the candy from developing hot spots in the pot and getting scorched.
  8. Sometimes the toffee separates. No one really seems to know why this happens. One school of thought believes that too much stirring could cause crystallization of the sugar which in turn could contribute to the toffee separating. I don’t know if any of this is true or not but I think it’s best to err on the side of caution. A gentle stirring every once in a while is really all you need to do.
  9. If you find a layer of excess oil from the butter floating on the surface of the toffee after you pour it into the jelly roll pan, use a paper towel to blot it off first before sprinkling the chocolate chips on top. This never happened to me, but I heard of it happening to more than one person so I thought I should mention it.

Almond Butter Toffee | Pinky's Pantry

ALMOND BUTTER TOFFEE

  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, chopped (optional)
  • 1½ cups milk chocolate chips or 1 large bar (4.4 oz.) Hershey’s milk chocolate
  • ½ cup finely chopped plain or lightly salted almonds
  1. Cover a 12½ x 17½ x 1-inch jelly roll pan with tin foil and lightly grease it with a little butter or margarine. If you want thicker toffee, use a smaller size pan.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil.
  4. Lower heat to low and continue to cook, stirring gently every once in a while, until mixture reaches the hard-crack stage (300ºF). This could take up to 30 minutes in some cases. Just be patient and don’t be tempted to raise the heat to hurry the toffee along.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chopped slivered almonds, if using.
  6. Quickly pour toffee into prepared jelly roll pan and spread to edges of pan.
  7. Sprinkle chocolate chips over toffee and wait a couple of minutes for the heat of the toffee to start softening the chips.
  8. Using an offset metal spatula, spread the melting chocolate chips over the toffee to completely cover it.
  9. Sprinkle the finely chopped almonds over the chocolate and pat down lightly with your hands to make it stick.
  10. Cool completely, then cut or break into irregular-sized pieces.
  11. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. I read it may also be frozen for up to one month but have yet to try freezing it..

NOTE:  If you don’t have a thermometer, you could test for doneness by dropping a bit of toffee into a bowl of cold water. It’s ready when it forms hard, brittle strands that break when bent.