Thursday, January 19, 2012

Waffles of Insane Greatness

Welcome to a new year here at Homemade in Hagerstown!  And there is no better way to start a year than by annihilating those pesky weight-loss-related New Year's resolutions with a batch of delicious waffles.  Am I right?  You know I am.

Today's recipe came to me from my friend Jimi, and it was our Christmas Eve breakfast here on the homestead.  I swear, I thought that these were at least as good as any I have ever had in a restaurant.  Take that, IHOP.

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3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 tsp vanilla

I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but they go together so easily you will be amazed.

Step 1:  Combine the dry ingredients (the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar) in a medium bowl.  Use your whisk and make sure that it is very homogeneous.

Step 2:  Add the wet ingredients (the milk, buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla).  Whisk again, blending well, so that very few lumps remain.

Step 3:  Read a book, take a shower, whatever, for 30 minutes while the batter rests.  Dream of waffles.

Step 4:  Prepare the waffle iron.  Before you turn it on, you need to oil it.  Make sure that whatever you use to grease it up gets into all of the little cracks and crevices or your waffle will tear, thus ending your dreams of a gold medal in the waffle olympics.  I used a little vegetable oil and a basting brush and it worked fantastically well.  I stuck to the same kind of oil that I had already used in the batter so as to not mess with the taste at all.  Turn your waffle iron on to medium-high.  Mine has a little light that tells me when it is warm enough.

Step 5:  When your waffle iron is hot, pour the waffle batter into the center.  My waffle iron holds 1/3 cup of batter per waffle.  When you have dumped it in, push the lid down.  This will squash the batter into all of the crevices and make it look all waffle-y.  My waffle iron has a light that goes off when it is done, but if yours doesn't, just pull it off when it stops steaming.

Step 6:  Douse your new waffles with copious amounts of butter and syrup.  Serve to small boys, who will decide that they are a hand food.  Enjoy the applause.

One caveat about these:  as with all waffles, they get soggy standing around in the air, so be prepared to start eating them as you go.  You can try to keep them warm in an oven set to 200 degrees, but they will be best right out of the iron.

Just typing this has made me crave these little brown beauties.  I think that tomorrow is waffle day here in Hagerstown.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Orange Coconut Creams

I mentioned earlier that I am making homemade candy tins for my family for Christmas this year.  This recipe is one that I tried for those tins, but I swear, they are so good that there might not be any left when it comes time to package them up!  They were also very easy and made a large batch, so do try them if you are in the mood for candy goodness (and who isn't?).  This recipe, once again, comes to us from Taste of Home, the best magazine ever!

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1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cubed
1 package (2 pounds) confectioners' sugar
1 cup flaked coconut (from the baking aisle)
1 1/2 tsp orange extract (from the spice aisle)
2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
8 oz. German sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp shortening

Start out by putting the confectioners' sugar in a big bowl.

Put the sweetened condensed milk and the butter into a small saucepan and heat it up on low (stir, stir, stir) until the butter is melted.

Pour it into the confectioners' sugar and beat it with your electric mixer.

It will be stiff when you are done, so be careful not to kill the motor.  Add the coconut and the orange extract and mix well again.  Now it will be REALLY stiff.

Roll it into 1" balls.  I used my cookie scoop, so these were bigger than 1", but it still worked.  Put the balls onto waxed paper-lined sheets and stick them in the fridge for about an hour (or two hours if you are trying to wrestle a 2-year-old into pajamas when the timer goes off).  This will firm them up and make them easier to dip.

Once the centers are ready, put the semisweet chips, the German chocolate, and the shortening into a small saucepan (think narrow and deep, not wide and shallow) and heat it on medium-low, stirring constantly, until the chocolates are both melted.  Don't worry about it seizing up, which chocolate tends to do on the stove -- the little bit of shortening prevents that nicely.  Once the chocolates are melted, turn the burner down as low as it will go and leave it there.  This will keep the chocolate nice and runny while you are dipping the candies.  You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but it will not stay hot and will try to set up before you are through, resulting in a gloopy mess.

To dip the chocolates, you can use a fork, but the wide tines will leaves marks on the bottom.  I bought a set of chocolate tools (see the link below) and they are very helpful.  The tines are small so they leave very little marks.  They are also wider than a fork (at least the 3-prong tool is) so you are less likely to lose your candy in the chocolate bath.

Drop your candies into the chocolate, cover them completely, then fish them out with the tools.  I have learned that the easiest way to do this and end up with the right amount of chocolate coating is to slightly tip the tool holding the candy and bang it gently on the side of the pan until the dripping stops.  This leaves a nice coating that isn't so thick that you break a tooth on it and doesn't waste all of your coating.  Place them back on the waxed paper when they are dipped and let stand until they are set (overnight for me).

Store them in an airtight container in a cool place and they will last a long, long time (well, they have a long shelf-life -- they may not hang around that long once you taste them).

These are super, super yummy!  I can't believe that I never tried making candy before.  Why have I been paying so much in stores when these are so good, so easy, and so fun to make?  They will be a Christmas tradition from here on in our home.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Peanut Brittle

It is December now, which in our home is known as "Baking Season".  I have decided to give gift boxes of homemade candies to our relatives for Christmas, and I wanted to start by trying out a recipe for an old favorite of mine.  I absolutely love peanut brittle, especially the stuff made by See's Candy, who like to add to my waistline by putting naughty kiosks in the malls in December where they sell this stuff like it is crack.  And to me, it might as well be.  Alas, there is no See's kiosk here in Hagerstown, so I am forced to try to make it myself.  It actually turned out very well.

For a printer-friendly copy of this recipe, click here:

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup peanuts
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp baking soda

I have to say that this is not my first attempt at peanut brittle.  I tried it last year, with very poor results.  I had used a recipe that said it could be made in the microwave, and it just didn't work for me.  This is a candy, and one that, to be decent, has to be cooked to a pretty precise temperature before pouring, so don't attempt it without a candy thermometer.  However, I was surprised by how easy this really was.  It did take patience, though.

Start by preparing your landing zone for the candy, because you won't have time when you need it.  Just grease a large cookie sheet pan and set it aside.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water in a heavy medium saucepan.  Clip your candy thermometer to the side.  You will ideally want the tip of the candy thermometer to be immersed in the liquid but not touching the bottom of the pan.  The pan itself will be a little hotter than the candy, and you want to be sure to get the candy to the right temperature before you take it off.  This is hard to do at first, I'll just be honest and say.  Once you get it stirred up, the candy won't be very high in the pan.  Don't worry.  Turn the heat onto medium and let it go, stirring occasionally.  Try not to bump the candy thermometer too much.  As it begins to boil, the volume will seem to increase and you can easily immerse the candy thermometer.

Once the sugar is dissolved and it has started to boil, add the peanuts.  Stir them in well.

See, the tip of the candy thermometer is now in the boiling candy.  Now comes the part where your patience is required.  You have to sit and watch the candy, stirring every now and then, until it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  It will go by stages where it seems to just be jumping up, and then it will seem to just sit there at one temperature FOREVER.  Don't be discouraged.  As long as you keep the temperature on medium (DO NOT TRY TO CHEAT AND TURN THIS UP TO HIGH) it will get there eventually.  You are waiting for the consistency to change, the water in the corn syrup to boil off, and for the color to darken.  I was actually surprised at how dark it got those last 10 degrees or so.  This process is known as caramelization.

You can see that the candy is much darker and much thicker now.  You should be stirring constantly at the end due to how thick it gets so that you don't accidentally scorch it.

Once you reach that magic temperature of 300 degrees F, you need to work quickly.  Time is not your friend here.  Remove the candy from the heat and immediately stir in the softened butter and baking soda.  (If you forgot to soften the butter before you started the brittle, 10-15 seconds in the old microwave will work just fine).  When you add the baking soda, it will foam up a bit and turn much lighter in color.  This is due to a chemical reaction between the baking soda and the acids in the sugar that produces carbon dioxide, and will result in a much lighter (less dense) candy.  That's what you want.    This is also why you used a bigger pan than you seemed to need -- I assume that boiling, foaming candy would not feel super-great on your hands.

Almost done!  Just dump it onto your prepared pan, grab 2 forks, and start lifting and pulling until you have it as thin as you can get it.  Bear in mind that it will be rapidly turning very hard as you are doing this, so work quickly.  Woe to those of you who, out of arrogance, will grab a spatula and try to flatten it (that's what I tried).  It just stuck to my silicone spatula, made a mess, and solidified much thicker than I wanted.  Live and learn.

In a very short time, it will be done and cool.  Just break it into pieces (it will break itself as you try to get it off the pan, so no worries) and store it in an airtight container or reward yourself for all of your hard efforts by grazing on it all afternoon.  Just be sure to have that syringe of insulin ready to go ...

Friday, November 25, 2011


I recently had the great joy of hosting a cookie party at my house.  I try to do this every year just before the holidays, and it seems to be pretty popular.  I asked everyone to bring 2 dozen of their favorite cookies, candies, or bars, and one copy of their recipe.  We just put the cookies out, ate until we were almost sick, and then everyone got to take home a plate of the cookie assortment.  I typed up the recipes and emailed them out, so now we can all add to our recipe boxes.

The recipe that I chose to make was fudge.  This is my mom's recipe, and she has no idea where it came from, but it is my dad's most favorite thing this time of year, so we always make at least one batch.

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3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter or oleo (1 1/2 sticks)
5 fluid oz. (2/3 cup) evaporated milk (the little can)
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
7 oz. marshmallow cream
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

I said that it was good, people, but it's fudge.  It is obviously not a health food.  Just don't eat the whole pan and you will be okay.

Start off by combining the sugar, butter, and evaporated milk in a heavy large saucepan.  Turn the heat onto medium and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved in it.

Keeping the heat on medium, bring it to a full roiling boil, stirring occasionally so that the sugar doesn't scorch.  "Full roiling boil" means vigorous bubbles all over the pan, not just in the middle, that you can't stir down no matter how hard you try.  When you hit this stage, start your timer for 5 minutes and stir the whole time.  You are boiling off some of the water that is present in the butter, a step that is important to the final consistency, so don't skimp on the time.

You can see that it darkened a bit over those 5 minutes.

The last few steps need to be done quickly, so be prepared in advance with all of your ingredients on the counter, opened up, and your pan greased.  When your 5 minutes are up, take the pan off of the heat and add the vanilla.  Stir it in, then dump in the chocolate chips.  Quickly stir to get them all melted.  Your fudge is rapidly cooling, so every second makes it harder to get them melted and requires more biceps.

Still moving like the Flash, stir in your marshmallow cream and nuts if you want to add them.  By this step you will definitely need to use those muscles, but think of how nice your arms will look next year during swimsuit season.  Assuming, that is, that you don't eat the whole pan of fudge.  Keep stirring until all traces of white are gone.

Now pour it into that 13x9" pan that you greased before you started.  Make pretty designs on the top with your spatula before it sets up, and try to restrain yourself as it cools.  If you set the pan up on a cooling rack so that air can get to the bottom you will be there a lot quicker.  Once it's cool, slice it into little bars and go crazy.

I have found that this recipe rivals those of any little shop with the word "fudge" in the name and is so easy to make.  It is definitely cheaper -- I recently paid $17 for a small piece of specialty fudge just to try it, and it still wasn't as good as mine.  Oh, and little kids love, love, love it (at least mine does).

Just be sure that you let someone special lick the spoon ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

It is just a few days before Thanksgiving here, and that means it's time to heat up the oven and crank out some pumpkin pies.  There is no more traditional dessert in the U.S. for our big feast day, and once you see how easy it is to make one of these by hand, you will feel so stupid for ever just buying one at the grocery store.  I thought that I would start off the holiday season by making my Mom mad ...

My mom is a good cook, but what she is renowned for is her homemade pies.  One summer when I was a kid, she decided to teach me how to make her famous pie crust.  This is a period that I lovingly remember as "Pie Making Boot Camp."  I made pie after pie until I got it right.  Well, Mom, this is not your recipe.  Sorry!  Yours is very tasty and we will definitely make it another time here on the blog, but it does not do well with fancy pie cutters, and that's what I want to do this time.  Please forgive me.

For a printer-friendly copy of this recipe, click here:

Ingredients (Pie Crust -- enough to make 2 crusts):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 tbsp white vinegar
5-6 tbsp milk

Ingredients (Pie):
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 can (16 oz.) canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk

First, make your crust.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Now cut in the shortening with your handy-dandy pastry cutter (or 2 forks if you still haven't bought the handy-dandy pastry cutter, and really, what's stopping you?).  It should look like little crumbs of shortening when you're done.

Sprinkle it with vinegar, then gradually add the milk.  Start with the 5 tablespoons of milk, then add more if necessary.  Stir it with a fork until it gloms together into a ball.  It took 6 tablespoons of milk for me.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until it is easy to handle.  The consistency will be a lot like Playdoh.

Now it's time to roll it out.  Be sure to flour your counter and your rolling pin so that it doesn't stick.  Since we made enough for 2 pies, just roll out half of it.  We will do something super fancy with the other half in a bit.  Your goal with the rolling pin is to get a circle bigger than your pie pan.  When you have accomplished this, wrap it loosely around your rolling pin to transfer to your pan, then unwrap it when you get there.

Now smooth it down in the pan and poke it wherever it needs to be poked to look presentable.

Remember the other half of the pie crust?  Here's where we get our fancy on.  I have a set of pie crust cutters from Williams-Sonoma in the shape of fall leaves.  (Jealous?  I bet you are).  They have a plunger to not only cut out little leaves but to make indentations on the top, too.  I almost cried with happiness when I bought them.  We are going to roll out the remaining pie crust, then cut little leaves out of it for the rim of the pie and for the top (after it's cooked).

Just place them on the edge, trying to space them evenly.  You will have to press a little bit to get them to stay, but don't press too hard or they will be misshapen.  Take the remainder of the leaves, place them on a cookie sheet, and bake them at 425 degrees for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned (keep an eye on them -- the little suckers go from "brown" to "charcoal" very quickly).

Isn't that a special looking pie crust?  Now we just need something to fill it with!  I enlisted my small helper for the pie-making step, mainly because he saw the mixer come out and was trying to climb my leg to get to it.  Just take all of your pie ingredients and combine them in a big bowl in the order given.  Stop every now and then to mix, but that is it.  Can you believe how easy this is?

Carefully pour it into the pie shell.  Aim for the middle.  You don't want to knock one of the crust leaves off.  I know from past experience that if you do, they sink like a rock.  Your pie filling will be VERY runny, but have no fear.  It will firm up in the oven.

Slide your pie into a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  This will get the crust nicely browned.  Without opening the door, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes.  This should get the middle cooked through.  Be sure to check it with a toothpick before you take it out.

Let it cool, then arrange your extra baked leaves on top, and voila!  A pumpkin pie tastier and prettier than they sell in your grocery store.

Let it cool completely, then store it in the fridge until Thanksgiving day, or any random day if you just get in the mood for it.  As pies go, this has to be the easiest one ever to bake, so if you are a novice, start with this one.  I guarantee that your fear of pie making will be gone when you finish, because it really is "easy as pie."  (Sorry -- couldn't resist).  Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011


If you are one of those people who just asked themselves, "What the heck is divinity?", you are not alone.  This is an old-fashioned candy that was popular around the time of our grandmothers but that has almost disappeared from your modern recipe box.  My grandma taught me how to make it, and it turns out that my 2-year-old loves it, so I had to make my yearly batch.

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3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

First of all, do not, I repeat, DO NOT attempt to make this without a candy thermometer unless you are at least 80 years old and well experienced.  When grandma used to make this, she would use the "hair up" method, in which the candy was cooked when it formed "hairs" when dropped in ice water.  This stage is also known as "hard ball" to candy makers.  Unless you are experienced, it is difficult to tell when you are in this stage.  The first time that I made it solo, without the thermometer, I either over- or under-cooked it, and when I poured it into the pan, it became so solid that a week with a chisel and boiling water wouldn't get it out.  I eventually had to buy a new pan.  So buy a candy thermometer.  Mine is an old-school glass one that clips to the pan, but you can get fancier models, including an infrared one that you just point at it.

Well, now that I have scared off all of my readers, I can get to the directions.  This is really a pretty fast and easy candy, and tasty, too, so don't be afraid of it.

This is so easy to make if you own a stand mixer, but definitely possible without one.  Start by beating your room temperature egg whites until they are very, very stiff.  I just put them in the stand mixer and let it go nuts the whole time that I am cooking the candy.  You can also use a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer.  Just whip the egg whites up before you start cooking.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water into a large pan and stir until it is all combined (it will be a thick slurry).  Clip your thermometer to the side so that the tip is in the candy but not touching the bottom of the pan.  Now crank the heat to high and stand back.  Don't touch it, and just let it go until that thermometer hits 260 degrees F.  This is not the time to go start some laundry, folks.

When you hit that magic temperature, add the vanilla.  Okay, now it is time to run small children out of the room, since you don't want anybody burned.  The syrup is very hot and very sticky and you should really avoid letting any of it touch anybody's skin.  With your mixer going at the same time in those egg whites, slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites, beating until they are combined and creamy.  It should look pretty shiny as well.

Stir in the pecans, then pour into a greased 13x9" pan.  Let it cool completely before you cut it.  You also are going to want to get all of the pans, beaters, etc., soaking in hot soapy water before the candy turns solid.

See, and you thought it was hard!  This candy actually makes itself -- you just have to supervise.  If you have never had it before, the consistency is similar to marshmallows, very fluffy.  They stay a good consistency for a long time, making them a great choice if you are mailing Christmas cookies to someone.

It just wouldn't be the Christmas baking season at my house without a batch of divinity.  If you try it, you will make it part of your tradition as well.