Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PEEPS: A comfort Easter Confection Collection

"Are You My Mother?"
Of all my childhood Spring Confection memories, PEEPS stand out. My sister and I still buy each other PEEPS around Easter, although she rarely eats the sugary marshmallow-y creatures any more. She buys me purple rabbits; I buy her classic yellow chicks --the original PEEPS. You see where this is going? I'm a purist, but since this is a Chocolate Blog, I've made room in my Easter PEEPS inventory for Chocolate PEEPS.

Peeps are an American phenomena and an industry.  Besides online and having stores, PEEPS is featured in the Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine and many local papers with special PEEPS diorama contests. Certainly a good use for this national favorite.  I usually do a few PEEPS set ups myself every year.. Funny how the chicks and bunnies disappear after each shot!


So, PEEPS--you either love them or hate them. People do all sorts of things with Peeps, only some of which involve giving them to kids at Easter or eating them straight from the box. For me, it's the elastic quality of the "old" peeps that's fun for me--pulling them apart.
Chocolate PEEPS Bunnies off to work in the fields

Chocolate: The ultimate in the ever improving PEEPS. Chocolate-Covered PEEPS are available from the original company in both Dark and Milk chocolate. These are not the small peeps packed together in rows. No, these Chocolate Peeps come in individually wrapped packages, as well as in a three pack. Sadly, in the big ones, the cool sparkly coating of sugar is missing, and I think it would have been a nice buffer between the chocolate and marshmallow to make it stand out from the rest of the chocolate marshmallow candy. 

However, the Chocolate Dipped PEEPS do have the sugar. I love the three pack of PEEPS Chocolate Dipped Chicks (both dark and milk chocolate), as well as the Dark and Milk Chocolate PEEPS Chocolate Dipped Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Chicks!
I'm a fan of Chocolate Eggs, and PEEPS this year has a very funn individually boxed hollow milk chocolate egg with a PEEP chick inside. Maybe it's been around for awhile, but I missed it. LOL!

And, just as an aside, Jacques Torres makes fabulous chocolate, and they sell Chocolate-Covered PEEPS. Their name: Chirp'N'Dales. They are adorable. Also, Asher's Chocolates makes Milk and Dark Chocolate Dipped PEEPS.

Other great uses for PEEPS:

1. Make PEEPS S'Mores, especially with the chocolate covered ones.
2. Plop a Chocolate Covered PEEPS down in your Hot Chocolate or Coffee.
3. Decorate cakes or cupcakes with PEEPS.
4. Create Your Own Diorama.
5. Bake PEEPS in your brownies!

Want to make your own Chocolate Covered PEEPS using the original PEEPS?

1. Melt some good dark chocolate or milk chocolate (about 16 oz/depending on how many you plan to make)
2. Remove Peeps from package. I would use Chicks since they're the original, but the other shapes (rabbits, etc) work well.
3. Insert a lollipop stick into the Peep. If you're using the chicks, do it the widest way (maybe this is why they're sideways standing up in the packaged ones--and why bunnies work better). 
4. Dip the Peep into the melted chocolate. Two chocies: Either cover the entire Peep or just dip one end as you would strawberries. Be sure and let any excess drip off.
5. Put on wax paper covered plate or cookie sheet and freeze for 20 minutes. 

Question? When is a Peep, not a Peep? When it's Chocolate Covered.

Chocolate Dipped Peeps complete the flock!
 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Egg Cake: Retro Ad & Recipe

Love this Retro Advertisement and recipe from 3/30/53. "Quick Like a Bunny Make this Gay Easter Egg Cake."

This is a "Golden Yellow" Cake with Chocolate Icing. Easy and pretty. You can, of course, update the recipe to make your own yellow cake and your own icing, but the idea is there. Most kitchen and craft stores will have special pans to create an egg shape, but if you want to go retro, follow this recipe and cut the egg into shape!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chocolate Matzo Toffee for Passover

My sister made this fabulous Chocolate Matzo Toffee for the Passover Sseder this year. It's an easy recipe, but it does take time.. lots of waiting. But if you're doing other things, it's a snap! Photo by  Judie Siddall.

Recipe for Passover Toffee is from Celebrate Passover by Deborah Heiligman (National Geographic Holidays Around the World) No date. In the acknowledgements of the book the author thanks "Vivian Phillips who gave me the toffee recipe years ago." This book is for children, but the directions for this recipe say, "You will need an adult to help you."  To eat it, for sure!

PASSOVER CHOCOLATE MATZO TOFFEE




Rabbit Redux: Chocolate Bunny Cakes for Easter

Photo: Chocolate Bunny Cake-William Sonoma
This Chocolate Bunny Cake is the ultimate Easter Bunny Centerpiece.  I've mentioned before that there are so many great places to find recipes. This Chocolate Easter Bunny Cake recipe is from the Williams Sonoma Kitchen. They no longer sell this specific pan that accompanied the recipe, but you can find it or the one I use on eBay and other sites. Williams Sonoma does sell the Nordic Ware Standing bunny with basket that is available most places. It is a great alternative (see below). You can add PEEPS in the basket! Just bake the two halves of the cake and press together with icing. Chocolate, of course!  Any of these 3-D Bunny Cakes would make a great Easter Centerpiece!

I actually have a totally different Easter Bunny 3-D cake pan for this cake, and there are lots of other bunny cake pans you can find.

Double sided cakes aren't very difficuly, and they're fun to make. The Wilton Cake Pan with the Eggs is the one in the recipe (first cake pan photo). You don't need to make the cake egg. You can make your own chocolate eggs or decorate with Jellybeans or Cadbury chocolate eggs. And, then there's the standup Bunny with basket. So many choices!

Other alternatives: Bake a chocolate cake, cut into shapes, and cover with a buttercream 'fur' frosting and coconut! See the recipe and directions below to shape your Bunny Cake. Recipe and directions from Betty Crocker's Party Book (1960).

Wilton Cake Pan used in Recipe
CHOCOLATE BUNNY CAKE

Ingredients:

For the cake:
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
20 Tbsp sweet butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 tsp Madasgascar vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

For the chocolate ganache:
1 lb dark chocolate (65-70%), chopped into small pieces
6 Tbsp sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
1 jelly bean

Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temperature.

To make cake, position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Grease and flour bunny cake pan; tap out excess flour.

Over sheet of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Williams Sonoma Bunny Cake Pan
In bowl of electric mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping mixer occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl. Add eggs a little at time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping mixer occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.

Spoon batter into prepared bunny pan, spreading batter so  sides are higher than center. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 38 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack and let cake cool upright in pan for 15 minutes. Invert pan onto rack and lift off pan. Let cake cool completely, at least 2 hours, before serving or decorating.

To make chocolate ganache: In metal bowl, combine chocolate and butter. In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream just to boil. Immediately pour  cream over chocolate and butter. Whisk until melted and mixture is smooth.

Transfer 2/3 cup of ganache to small bowl and let cool to room temperature. Keep remaining ganache warm and fluid by placing the bowl over but not touching barely simmering water in small saucepan.

To assemble and decorate cake:  wash and thoroughly dry pan, then return both halves of cooled bunny cake to pan. Level cake by using serrated knife to gently saw off part of each cake half that rose above the edge of pan.

Line baking sheet with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, making sure it covers edges of pan, and set  wire cooling rack on sheet. Place both cake halves, cut side down, on rack. Remove any crumbs that fall off cake onto baking sheet. Slowly pour warm ganache over halves, coating completely. Tap baking sheet to allow excess ganache to drip off. Place rack on another baking sheet or piece of parchment paper. Using rubber spatula, scrape excess ganache from lined baking sheet back into bowl. Reheat over simmering water if not fluid. Set rack on lined baking sheet again and place egg cake halves on  rack alongside bunny (If you made these). Pour warm ganache over eggs.

Cut jelly bean in half and attach halves to bunny to create eyes. Place baking sheet, with rack still on top, in refrigerator until ganache has set and cake halves are firm enough to handle, at least 30 minutes.

Place one Bunny cake half, cut side up, in center of large piece of aluminum foil. Ganache on this side of bunny may smudge a little. Using small offset spatula, spread 1/2 to 2/3 cup of room-temperature ganache over  cut side. Slide  metal spatula under other cake half and carefully place cake half on top of other one. Press down on jelly bean eye to help secure halves. Use foil to help turn bunny upright, then squeeze bunny on jelly bean eyes, feet and tail to secure the halves. If there are any gaps in seam, place some warm ganache on small offset spatula and fill in gaps. Dab warm ganache onareas where you squeezed the cake and on any other exposed areas. Soften any smudged areas by heating gently with culinary torch.

Carefully slide large metal spatula under base of bunny and transfer to platter. Using spatula, transfer the egg halves to platter (if using)

***
This recipe and directions for a 3-D Bunny Cake from the Betty Crocker Party Cookbook (1960). This was before all the very creative cake pans out there! Although the recipe says to use a yellow or white cake mix, you can make your own Chocolate Cake (recipe above) or use a Chocolate Cake Mix. Love chocolate and coconut.. This is a simple and great cake.. and will make a lovely centerpiece!

CHOCOLATE BUNNY CAKE!