Easy Chocolate Covered Treats

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Hello and happy Tuesday! Last Friday I made these yummy chocolate covered treats for a holiday office party. It was such a wonderful evening filled with so much delicious food and fun moments. We had lasagna three ways (meat, veggie, and chocolate), a secret Santa gift exchange that had me rolling on the floor laughing, a Skype conversation with a co-worker and her puppy, and a hilarious conversation about the slang term basic.  It was truly an amazing night, and I feel very fortunate to have such delightful co-workers.

I know, I know!  Get to the chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered pretzels already.  The recipe and assembly of these treats is so simple that you can whip them up in no time.  This quick dessert recipe is fun to make and truly tasty…

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. milk chocolate chips
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. white chocolate chips
  • food coloring (I used red & green gel food coloring)
  • 1 bag of large pretzels
  • 1 pint of strawberries
  • Assorted toppings such as toffee pieces, crushed candy canes, etc.
  • Parchment paper

Directions

  • Over very low heat melt white chocolate chips in a small sauce pan,
  • Over very low heat melt milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small sauce pan
  • After both are melted dunk and cover pretzels and strawberries
  • Carefully place pretzels and strawberries on non-stick parchment paper
  • While chocolate is still soft, sprinkle various toppings over them
  • Take remaining white chocolate and divide into two small bowls, mix food coloring until desired color is achieved
  • With a fork drizzle colored white chocolate over pretzels and strawberries
  • With a fork drizzle remaining milk/semi-sweet chocolate over pretzels and strawberries
  • Allow to cool for at least 2 hours or half an hour in the refrigerator

Remember to use very, very low heat or melt chocolate in a heat proof bowl over boiling water.  Work quickly once chocolate has melted, that means that organization is key.  Have all strawberries and pretzels prepped and ready.  Lay out the parchment paper neatly, ready to be topped with yummy chocolate covered goodies.  If the chocolate starts to thicken just pop it onto the stove over low heat again.  Just remember to leave enough time for the chocolate to firm up.  I suggest making them at least a few hours before a party, or placing them in the fridge to speed things up if you are in a hurry.  And, last but not least, don’t eat all of them!  Lol!  That was my worst problem making these.  I kept eating them, and eventually gave myself a stomach ache.  But, at least I got my full serving of fruit for the day.

Enjoy! Buen Provecho!

Xo, Maria

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Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Salted Caramel Sauce…

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The holidays are here, the holidays are here!  Last week I tested out this chocolate cupcake recipe and it was extreme!  The ultimate chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and salted caramel sauce is just crazy good.  I can’t wait to make them again for the family gatherings to come.  I’m so happy I tested this recipe because I learned so much.  I’m going to share my whole debacle with you and give you the right tips to make it a success.

Let me say first, and foremost, patience is key.  I haven’t baked in almost a year because of the issues with my hands and wrists.  So, I think I lost sight of why I loved baking so much.  What’s that?  Putting love into what you are making.  And, to do that, you need to take your time to enjoy the art of baking.  What happened to my cupcakes, and why was it such a disaster?  So many things, where do I start?  I had to make the batter twice because my eggs started to scramble when I added them to the chocolate, my frosting started cracking and melted off the cupcakes, and I put them in the refrigerator so they hardened.  I know, I know!  What a mess!  So, here are my key tips:

always preheat your oven, and note hot spots in your oven

make note of cooking temperature and time differences for high altitudes

allow noted ingredients to get to room temperature

sift dry ingredients, especially when making frosting

don’t over mix batter ingredients

refrigerate frosting if it becomes too soft after preparation

having an icing disaster (like me)?  use an ice cream scoop for a different aesthetic

And, please feel free to share any baking tips in the comments section below.  I love reading all your comments!

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Recipe (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • warm chocolate glaze (recipe below)
  • cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
  • salted caramel sauce (recipe below)
  • caramels and chocolate bark for a decorative touch

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees & line 12-cup muffin pan with liners
  • Simmer water in a sauce pan and place chocolate in a heat proof bowl.  Warm chocolate over simmering water and add butter slowly.  Stir over heat until smooth and then set aside to cool.
  • Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda
  • Combine sugar and melted chocolate mixture
  • Slowly stir in eggs and vanilla to the sugar and chocolate mixture
  • Then, combine chocolate sugar mixture with flour mixture.  Be careful not to over mix.
  • Fill cupcake 3/4 full and bake 20-25 minutes
  • After baking, poke holes in cupcakes with a fork and dig a small hole in the middle.  Pour warm chocolate glaze over the top of warm cupcakes.  Let cool, and top with icing, salted caramel sauce, caramels, and chocolate bark.

Warm Chocolate Glaze

  • In a saucepan combine 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, 8 oz, semisweet chocolate chips, 2 tbsp. unsalted cubed butter.  Heat over medium heat until chocolate is smooth and starting to boil.  Stir in a tbsp. or two of milk until sauce is thinned slightly, be careful not to make it too runny.  Wait until glaze has cooled slightly, and then pour over and into cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • With an electric mixer beat two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese with 6 tbsp. of butter.  Be sure that all ingredients are room temperature.  Mix (slowly) until combined, then add in 1/2 – 1 tsp. vanilla (personal preference here) and 1 cup of powdered sugar.  Make sure you sift all lumps out of the sugar before you add to cream cheese.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil (do not stir). Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Remove the sugar mixture from heat and whisk in 3/4 cup of heavy cream.  Add this slowly and carefully.  Stir in 3 1/2 tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 tsp. of salt
  • Allow to cool before serving

Luckily, I tried the cupcakes before they hardened in the refrigerator.  The texture was amazing after cooling down slightly.  When I added the chocolate glaze, whoa.  Too good for words!  I could have stopped there, but I wanted to dress it up with my favorite frosting.  The salted caramel sauce was for Mike, my husband, he loves salted caramel anything.  If you’re not in love with the idea of chocolate and cream cheese frosting, switch it up with a vanilla buttercream or classic chocolate ganache frosting.  Another idea is to just finish the cupcakes by pouring the caramel sauce directly over the chocolate glaze.  Which ever variation you go for, it’s going to be simply delicious.

Enjoy! Buen Provecho!

Xo, Maria