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Thursday, June 30, 2011


 Since I don't live in Dothan, AL, I cannot tell you that I live in the peanut capital of the world.  However, the peanut festival is one of the centerpieces of our town's existence, and we like boiled peanuts.  Some of our friends have an annual peanut boil, and in honor of that, I made these sweet treats.   My husband, Tommy, came up with the recipe, and I made them.  People loved them, and at least one person came up to me and said, "I hope you don't mind, but I packed a few of these to take with me."

The idea for these started off with cake pops, which I learned about from a lovely book by Bakerella, called Cake Pops.  I decided to try them, and they were great.  You can buy some overpriced ones at Starbucks if you really want to see some.  There are recipes on the internet, too.

This is our take on cake pops:

You will need to start with a cake.  I used a Devil's food mix, and followed the instructions on the box.

Then, trim the edges off of your cake.  If you use a light cake color (like white, pink, or yellow), you will need to cut off the top and bottom as well as the edges. 

  Next, it is time to crumble the cake.  The nice part of this is that it doesn't matter what your original cake looked like, because you are turning it into crumbs anyway.  Take a section of the cake and break it in half and rub the two together.  Some people have suggested using a food processor, but I just use my hands.  At the end, you should have a bowl of fine crumbs.

 The best part of this is possibly the peanut butter.  You can use any brand you like.

Add 8 to 12 oz. (1 to 1 1/2 cups) of peanut butter to the cake crumbs.  The amount is mostly according your taste.  I mixed in about a cup and the batter was fine as far as consistency, but I didn't think it had enough peanut taste, and so I added some more.

To mix the batter, you can start with a spoon, but the only way to really do this is to use your hands.  

Mush the crumbs and peanut butter together until it makes a stiff batter, like cookie dough.   

You will need something to hold your little cake balls after you make them.  I used tupperware, but cookie sheets  or plates are fine.  You will probably want something with a raised edge to keep the little cakes from rolling off when you move the pan.

Take some batter and roll it into a 1 inch ball.

Then, squeeze the middle of the ball to make a peanut shape.  As you mold your batter, cracks will form.  Try to smooth these out as best as you can.  Small cracks aren't a problem, but deep ones will show through the candy coating.

 Keep it up until you use up all your batter.  I ended up with about 48 peanuts, although if you don't sample them while you're making them, you may have a few more!

 These will need to be refrigerated for a few hours.  I usually do them overnight.  You can put them in the freezer to speed up the process.

Once your peanuts are chilled, they need to be coated with candy.  You can buy Candy Melts to do this, but for white candy, I found that almond bark was much cheaper.  I used the almond bark (which doesn't have almonds in it, by the way) for a base and then used some Wilton Candy Melts (which you can get at Michaels or sometimes Walmart) to tint the candy to the color I wanted.

I have a "Little Dipper" crock pot that I use to melt my candy.  If you do not have one of these, you can use the microwave.  (You could also make a double boiler by boiling water in a sauce pan and putting a glass mixing bowl on the top of the pot. Put the candy in the bowl and it will melt.  Just be careful of the steam escaping around the bowl.)

 Once the white candy was melted, I added some of the chocolate.  I finally ended up using 3 chocolate candy melts for each block of almond bark I used.  The result should be a tan color.  You will want your candy to be in a container that is 2-3 inches deep (or more) for dipping.

 Notes:  1.  Previously, I tried using tint for icing to color my candy instead of buying the colored candy melts.  This does not work very well, which is why I bought the chocolate.  2.  I started running out of the candy in the middle of my project, and when I mixed the new batch, it was a slightly different color.  It didn't make a difference in the long run, but it bugged me.  You might want to melt more candy than you think you will need to make sure than you don't have to make more in the middle.  You can refrigerate any extra candy you have and use it for another project later.  3.  Also, if you do use the crock pot, if you have it on for more than an hour, you will want to unplug it for a little while to prevent the candy from overheating.

Now, it is time to take your chilled peanuts and dip them in the candy.  After several frustrating experiments, this is the best way I found to do this.  One at a time, dip your peanut shapes just past halfway into the melted candy.  Allow some of the candy to drip back into the pot.

Lay each peanut on wax or parchment paper so that the candy can harden.

Once the shell is hard, pick up each peanut by the candy coated side and dip the other side into the candy.  When you put it back on the wax paper, make sure to lay the same side down on the paper so that the top will be smooth.

 If your little cakes become too warm before you finish dipping them, they may break in half when you stick them in the candy.  If this happens, enjoy the broken ones, and stick the unfinished cakes back in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  Don't worry if a few of them break.  Sometimes that just happens, even if they are chilled.  I just eat those myself ;)

Last step:  Decorating.

If you have candy decorating or icing bags, you can use one of those.  If not, plastic sandwich bags will work--just be careful because the plastic bag may break if you squeeze it too hard.

Take some chocolate candy melts and put them in the bag.  There are directions on the package for microwaving them to melt them.

After the candy is melted, cut a very small hole in the tip of the bag to allow the chocolate to come out.  To let you know how small of a hole I used, the first one I cut was so small the chocolate couldn't even squeeze through, so I made the hole just a teeny bit bigger.

Squeeze the melted chocolate into horizontal and then vertical lines across the peanuts to make a grid.  At first, I tried making individual lines, but that was very time consuming and it didn't seem to be as smooth as I wanted it.  I tried moving faster and just making curves at the end of the line and my chocolate worked better.  The connected lines didn't take away from the design.

Once the chocolate lines dry, they are ready to serve.  They do not have to be refrigerated, but if you leave them in the sun, they will melt.

I put mine on serving dishes and sprinkled on some roasted peanuts as a garnish.  They were worth the effort!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Dressed Up Appetizers

 This week, I would like to show you how to make some appetizers that I have used when we have pot-luck dinners.  People really seem to enjoy them.  Last Saturday, I took them to a covered dish dinner, and they were almost gone before the dinner started.  The hors d'oeuvres are really simple, and the directions for them are in the second part of this post.  The first part of my post explains how to take a simple appetizer and make it more elegant.

To begin, you will need beads, toothpicks, and a glue gun.  I would suggest a low-temp glue gun, as you don't want to melt your toothpicks, and also, your fingers are so close to the glue (or in it, as mine were) that you want to make sure you don't burn yourself.  I used plastic toothpicks so that I could reuse them.  Depending on the quality of your gluing, these picks will stand up to a gentle wash with soap and water, and so you could use them more than once.

I used beads that I already had and washed them ahead of time.  I bought the only plastic toothpicks I could find.  I wanted to get some of the straight, multicolored ones, but I couldn't find any.  The ones I got came from Publix, and they have crooks on one end.  This was a little bit challenging, but the end result was nice.

Use the glue gun to put some glue on the end of the toothpick.  You will want to put it on the tip and not farther down.  Also, you don't want the glue to drip off, but you need to be generous enough with the glue so that your beads will have something to stick to.

Then, slide your bead onto the end of your toothpick, over the glue.  

 You could leave your toothpicks all like this, or you could get fancier by adding more beads on top of what you have.  Simply add another dot of glue where you would like to add your second bead, and stick the bead on.

Your designs could be abstract, as the one above, or you could try for a shape, like a flower.  The technique is all the same--add a dot of glue and stick the bead on.

 I tried a sort of hob-nail design.

 And Mickey Mouse ears!

 This is a different flower design from the first one.  

One of the things that I had to remind myself of was that these didn't all have to be recognizable objects, like flowers.  The beads are pretty, and so if you have an abstract arrangement of them, they will be just as nice.  One last idea that I will leave you for your beading.  I liked to use an oblong bead on the toothpick, and then a small bead sticking out from the side.  It was abstract, but it reminded me of a rosebud with a leaf on the stem.  Just an idea for you.

Now for the food!  You can certainly do this with regular wooden toothpicks and it would be just as tasty!

 You will need cheese, hard salami, and olives.  I got the deli to cut my salami in 1/2 inch slices (approximately).  You could buy the bags of cheese cubes if you want, or buy a block or two of cheese and slice them.  I chose mozzarella and cheddar.  I have had several people say that they really enjoyed the green olives I added, but you could use whatever you would like to add or substitute.

First, cut your salami and cheese into cubes and drain the olives.

Then, arrange your individual cubes and olives on each toothpick.  I put three cubes on each toothpick.  I didn't make all of my arrangements the same.  Some were all cheese, some were cheese and olives, some were meat and olives, some were meat and cheese.   Something you need to keep in mind is that it is important to get the toothpick through the middle of each cube so that the arrangement will stand up when you are finished.  The toothpicks I used were kind of flimsy, and I had trouble getting them through the salami and cheese in a straight line. Some of my little picks wouldn't stand up, so I rested them along the edge of my serving platter.  

Remember, your efforts are going to be appreciated no matter what.  Even if the results aren't perfect, people will still enjoy the fruits of your labor.

One last thought--I have also made these using fruit instead of meat and cheese.  Grapes, pineapple chunks, and berries would work well.

Please let me know what you think in the comments!  What else would you like to see?  I have another dessert idea for next time!