Gluten Free White Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Cookies

Gluten Free White Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Cookies

I taught myself how to make these when Trader Joe’s came out with their candy cane filled oreo style cookies. (I call them oreos, but I think legally they are ‘sandwich cookies’)

I would dip the cookies in dark chocolate and top with crushed candy canes. Yum.

But now that my daughter is gluten intolerant, I just simply use the Glutino brand creme sandwiches, both chocolate and vanilla and dip them in both white and dark chocolate. These are vanilla flavored creme sandwich cookies dipped in white melting chocolate and topped with candy canes. I did the same with some chocolate creme cookies and dark chocolate.

Easy and beautiful, and sure to impress at a holiday open house, cookie exchange or simply to have around as the kids flow through your house, looking for something to curb the sweet tooth.

A helpful tool to make these is a truffle fork. I looks like a flattened out pitchfork, and allows the excess chocolate to drip off while holding the treat. Let harden on a Silpat.

Enjoy!


Macadamia Nut Butter Crunch Toffee – Updated

Image

(**Please note a 2014 update at the bottom)

My family has been munching on this since I made it earlier this week. It honestly is the most delicious, creamy, stick to your teeth, perfectly balanced toffee I’ve ever had. I seriously love this recipe for the compliments, faces of obvious enjoyment, and groans of gratitude it elicits.

I found this recipe years back. A friend of mine and I used to get together before Christmas for a number of years, and bake up treats in vast amounts to give to friends and ship to family. It was so much fun to share the chore, catch up on our busy lives, and celebrate a completed task with a bottle of wine. Some of our treats did not make the ‘repeat’ cut list, but this one has. I make it every single year now. Every. Single. Year. And no, I don’t gain a pound. (wink, wink)

Some tips and tricks for safety and success:

1. Anytime you are making candies, it is a good idea to have a bowl of ice water nearby in case some of hot liquid splashes on you. This stuff is cooked HOT and can do some serious damage to skin. Please, this is not a recipe for kids to be attempting, although, it’s fun to watch. (The boiling sugar looks like lava, even as an adult, I find myself mesmerized)

2. I use macadamia nuts. I prefer them over all other nuts as they lend just that slightly salty/creamy aspect that I personally feel balances perfectly with the toffee. You may use any other nut your prefer, or use no nuts. I know that macadamias are spendy, but it’s once a year, and it’s Christmas, so I splurge. Don’t skimp on the macadamia nuts. You’ll want all that creamy nutty goodness to shine through. I have tried off brands, but in my experience, Mauna Loa is a superior brand. (I am a macadamia nut snob….I fully confess)

3. You must have a candy thermometer for this. I know that there are the old fashioned ways to test by dropping a ball in to very cold water and ‘feeling’ it’s stage. In this case, we are looking for hard crack stage. I cook mine to exactly 300 degrees, and I’ve had great success. I consider myself still a novice in the candy making realm, but if you are a candy expert and can eyeball ‘hard crack’, my hat is off to you.

4. The original recipe calls for a chocolate layer, which is melted on the hot toffee as it cools. I skip the chocolate. Honestly? I think chocolate would be distracting to the simple purity of this toffee. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate.  But there are times it can overshadow the star and, this is one of those times. I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to add chocolate or not. If you do, take chopped chocolate and sprinkle on top of the freshly poured toffee and let sit. The heat of the toffee will melt the chocolate, then you can take an offset spatula and smooth it out.

5. Lastly, you will need a Silpat mat (silicone) or parchment paper. I invested in a Silpat years and years ago and it has been a loyal workhorse in my kitchen. If you don’t have one, its Christmas…..

Macadamia Nut Butter Crunch

1 lb butter. (I use regular old salted butter)(***See 2014 update below)
2 C sugar
1 tbsp LIGHT corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts.
(8 oz chopped chocolate–as i’ve said, optional. I don’t use it)

Line a sheet pan, using the above tip. I use a sheet pan that restaurants use – Jelly Roll pans – they are rimmed. It keeps the toffee contained and reduces the mess!

Combine your butter, sugar, corn syrup in a heavy bottomed 4 quart sauce pan. You can use a non-stick pot for easier clean up. Get the butter melting first, then add the other two ingredients. Place over medium to high heat, stir with a wooden spoon and bring the mixture to a boil (*see note below), and reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer.

P1010450

P1010449

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in vanilla and nuts. (be careful, at this point it will bubble furiously!)

P1010451

Pour on to your silpat IMMEDIATELY, and help even it out towards the edges. The nuts can be a bit stubborn and want to clump. Try to do your best to even them out, but don’t sweat it if there are parts with no nuts. It’s still awesomely delish.

P1010453

Wait about 5 minutes for toffee to cool slightly. It should be still firm but not sticky. I say that because at this point, excess butter will likely break from the toffee. (**See 2014 update below ) No need to panic, simply blot up the excess with paper towels. Carefully test with your finger around 3 mins to see if it’s set or not. If the toffee is still too hot, blotting will end up with a ruined mess and the consumption of paper. At this point, after blotting, add your chocolate if you wish.

Let it cool until its firm, then crack and store in an airtight container. I layer it in between waxed paper in a ziploc bag or plastic food storage container. Stored at room temperature.

IMG_0254

*I am very careful when stirring to not slosh the sugar/butter mixture up on the sides of the pan. Sugar can be temperamental and you don’t want the toffee to end up sugary in texture, you want it creamy. So, to prevent the re-forming of crystals, once the butter is melted I give the mixture a gentle whisk, then I leave it alone.

***2014 Update:
This year I made this with Hope Creamery Unsalted Hi-Fat Butter. The results were amazing! Because the butter was unsalted, I added a hearty ‘pinch’ (about 1/2 tsp) of Himalayan salt while it was cooking. Using the Hi-Fat butter created a more glossy surface and the butter did NOT break out of the toffee, eliminating the whole blotting step. You can use a less expensive butter and this recipe will still yield great results. But if you really want to kick it up a notch, give the High Fat butter a whirl.
Note: The photo at the top is with traditional store brand butter. The lower photos (added this year) are with the new Hi-Fat butter. (There are other brands, Plugra is one) As you can see, there is a marked difference in the look. Its less grainy, the color richer and more glossy. That said…trust me. Both will be gone in the blink of an eye!

 


Cranberry Clusters

What is Christmas without a cookie exchange or two to go to? I’ve hosted my share of them in the past, but this year it is a welcome change of pace to go to a cookie exchange and let someone else take charge. Due to a bible study, I missed one of my favorites, hosted by a lovely woman who truly has the gift of baking. I’m not complaining cause there is a bright side, another friend is hosting one next week. So out come the cookbooks, pouring over and contemplating which treat to bring.

These little gems are my oldest daughter’s absolute favorite. They combine that perfect balance of sweet/tart, crunchy/creamy, juicy/dry. I cannot describe fully enough how delicious these glistening ruby delights are, you will just have to make up a batch and judge for yourself.

They are a little putzy to make, but trust me, they will be the first to fly off that cookie laden table. As I’ve mentioned all to many times before, its cold here. But, cold is only one aspect of living in a place where ‘cold’ is a runner up to the North Pole cold, its bitterly dry also. So, here in my environment, these babies will keep on a cookie platter for a few days at room temperature. Since you are in essence ‘candying’ the berries, humidity is your enemy. If you are in a moist environment, eat them quickly (trust me, not a problem) or store in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 5 days. They will get soft, but the flavor will remain.

Cranberry Clusters
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cup chopped white chocolate (a good quality white melting bark will do also, and sometimes works better than white chocolate which can seize easily)

Combine the sugar and water together and cook to a hard-ball stage, 250-265 deg.
Remove from the heat. I put my pot on a heat pad to retain its heat for as long as possible.
Working quickly (but carefully, hot sugar burns, badly!) drop 3 cranberries in to the syrup and using 2 forks clump them together and flip to coat. Remove quickly and put on a piece of waxed paper or siliconed parchment. (a silpat mat will also work)

You will likely get about 7-8 clusters out of this batch, the first ones will be clear like glass, the last ones will start to look frosted. Stop when the sugar starts to crystalize. Now, at this point, I suppose there is a way to reheat the sugar and continue on. I have not found a way to do that effectively. I have found, in my experience, that you never get that shiny clear result when you try reheat the sugar. For me, because I’m sort of picky, I just make another batch or two of the sugar syrup, depending on the quantity I need. Play with it yourself and decide. Using a non-stick pan makes all the difference in the world as far as clean up goes!

While your candies are hardening, melt the white chocolate (or bark) in the microwave or in a double boiler. (It is advisable when dealing with all chocolate to be sure not to let any moisture get in to it, as it will cause it to seize)
Then dip the flat side of the cooled clusters in to the white chocolate, leaving the tops uncoated. Set aside on the parchment to harden.

I put these in small candy cups when I give as gifts, but they are just as beautiful scattered on a cookie tray.
Trust me, you want to have all your treats leave first? Make these.

Whether for dessert, cookie exchange or a party, these will please.

Image