I meant to share these recipes before Christmas, but as always happens, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and the meal planning, cooking and clean-up that goes with it, took top priority...
I'm very good at over-booking my time. I'm sure you were just as busy as I was, and it's just as well because these desserts are much more suited to make after Christmas, when, if your house is like ours, candy canes drip from the Christmas tree, marshmallows (for the marshmallow shooter my son unwrapped Christmas morning) are sitting around getting hard, and any number of Christmas candies are cluttering up the kitchen counters waiting to be eaten, or turned into a dreamy, wintery dessert.
December began in a flurry of icing sugar, snowy marshmallow fluff, winter-white whipped cream and cool peppermint candy canes. It was my mother's birthday and I made her a peppermint bonbon tart. It's a recipe that's been in our family for years, my grandmother used to make it for her when she was just a girl. It's been passed down through the generations, and over time, forgotten. I pulled out the time-worn card, made a few modern adjustments (like removing the shortening in favor of cream), and resurrected this family favourite for my mother's birthday. This really is a candy tart through and through, from the solid chocolate crust to the candy cane laced filling. And it's a perfect way to use all those Christmas candy canes! Just be sure to use the red and white ones to get that gorgeous pink colour. If you use the red and green ones your tart will turn out brown (though if you can find green and white candy canes that would be just as pretty!) I had both so I used the green & red ones to garnish.
These marshmallow & coconut blondies are all about building layers of flavour, much like building a snowman. The base is a solid and sturdy cookie crust, flavored with rich molasses and vanilla. I wanted to highlight the flavour of molasses so I used dark brown sugar. You could certainly use light, but it won't be as intense. Next comes the marshmallows, roasted to oozy perfection in the oven. They're finished with a shower of toasted coconut - warm, golden and nutty.
Like a kid in a candy shop, I've concluded that there's no better time to indulge my sweet-toothed inner child than during the sugar-glazed months of a marshmallow winter - like this one.
Peppermint Bonbon Tart
8 oz good, nut-free, semi-sweet chocolate (I used Baker's 56% Cacao)
2 cups cream
12 red & white striped candy canes
1 envelop unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
Spray an 11 x 1 inch tart pan (with removable base) with non-stick spray or butter well.
Melt the chocolate with 2 Tbsp cream in a double boiler. Spread the chocolate evenly in the pan and up the edges making sure to cover the seam around the base. Place on a flat surface in the refrigerator to harden while making the filling.
Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water and set aside. Place the candy canes in a zip-top bag and crush them finely. Heat 1/2 cup of cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat, slowly add the crushed candy and stir until it's melted. (The finer you crush the candy, the faster they will melt.)
Pour the melted candy into a large bowl and stir in the gelatin. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. When the gelatin mixture is cool, vigorously stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream. Gently fold in the remaining cream. Pour the filling into the chocolate shell and refrigerate until set. Garnish with additional candy canes if desired.
Toasted Marshmallow & Coconut Blondies
1 cup of butter (2 sticks), at room temp
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp good vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 jumbo marshmallows
1/3 - 1/2 cup coconut
Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C). Butter and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the wet.
Spread the dough evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile toast the coconut in a dry pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Place in a bowl and set aside. (Don't leave it in the pan or the coconut will begin to burn.)
When the blondies are done, allow to cool for about 10 minutes while preheating the broiler on low. Carefully cut into 12 bars and top each bar with a marshmallow. Place under the broiler for 1 - 2 minutes, watching carefully, until the marshmallows are toasted and oozy. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the coconut over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.