Happy Valentines Day – Sweets for the Sweet

 Chocolate and strawberries just go with Valentines Day. I make the very popular chocolate cake balls  ( cake pops without the stick) for some of our square dances and I always get requests for how they are made. They even have books in the cake decorating section at Walmart for decorating into all kinds of cute characters and turning them into cake pops. These are so popular all over the internet and are great make ahead treats and you can’t beat the ease of chocolate dipped strawberries for Valentines Day.

Chocolate Cake Balls and Dipped Strawberries-yrcg

Chocolate Cake Balls

Prepare a Chocolate Devils Food Cake per the box instructions for a 9 X 13 pan. Once the cake is baked and completely cooled. Dump the cake into a large bowl. Crumble the cake with  clean hands until it resembles coarse crumbs. Dump 1 full canister of cream cheese frosting into the cake and then mix the frosting and cake until completely combined. It will be messy at first but does finally come together into a dough like mixture. Using a  small spoon scoop out small portions of the cake mixture and roll into balls about 1-inch in size. Place on a large tray as you roll the cake balls. Once the tray is full, cover well with plastic and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or until ready to use. I had mine in the freezer for 3 days and they were perfect for dipping.

I used Wilsons Dark Cocoa Chocolate Melts, they also have white chocolate, light cocoa and usually during various holidays even colored chocolate melts  that you find in the cake decorating department of Walmart or the hobby stores. You could also use chocolate chips or temper your own chocolate for dipping. I already had the chocolate melts in the pantry so that is what I used. I have found that if you only melt about a 1/3 of the bag at a time you can drop the frozen cake balls into the melted chocolate, roll and then remove with a spoon and drop into a small paper liner and they will finish setting up in the paper liner. Once the cake balls are all dipped arrange onto your serving trays, cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve or take to the party.

Warning: These go real fast, once folks realize they are cake balls.

Yield: 1 cake box makes about 50 cakes balls.

 Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Get an extra bag of those chocolate melts and some nice fresh strawberries and indulge in these lovely treats.

Wash the strawberries. You can keep the leaves on or remove them. I left them on for color and something to hold onto while I dipped the berries. Dry the strawberries really well on some paper towels. You don’t want any water to get into your melted chocolate. Once the berries are dried. Dip the berries, roll to coat and let any excess chocolate drain back into the bowl. Place the berries onto a sheet of waxed paper to finish setting up. Once set, place berries into individual paper liners.

Tip: If you don’t have wax paper by the rolls and your family eats lots of cold cereals. Save those empty cereal bags for some real good heavy-duty wax paper for FREE! That’s what I do and just store them in a drawer until you need some wax paper.

 

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Canning Orange Juice

We just had a freeze here in Central Florida a couple of nights ago, so many of us were picking all the fruit from our trees.  Our trees are still young at 3 years old, but we were   able to fill a large cooler and a 5 gallon bucket full of pineapple orange juice oranges and the baby navel orange tree had about 1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket along with two bushels of dark red grapefruits from the grapefruit tree.

We had a great year for such young trees and many of our neighbors have said the their trees had heavy crops this year as well.  We will be eating the grapefruits with our breakfast, but I wanted to get the juice oranges canned up to enjoy over the next few months. I know lots of folks freeze their orange juice, but I save that premium space for meat.

Pineapple Oranges from our tree-yrcg

I got this canning recipe from the Ball Blue Book for canning juice last year from my parent’s fruit trees, so I know it works perfectly. I followed the same directions as for grapefruit juice.  

First thing, you have to juice the oranges with a juice reamer, either the old fashion hand reamer or you can get the newer electric ones, but you can’t use the juicing machines that make juice from the peels and all,  the pith from the oranges and peels will make for a bitter juice.

My old fashion glass juice reamer - yrcg

I burned up my electric reamer just as I started juicing these oranges so I pulled out the trusty old fashion glass juicer that works with good old hand power! So here goes;

Canned Orange Juice  – from the Ball Blue Book

Wash the oranges; drain. Extract and strain the juice. I strained twice with a basic strainer  so I got all the seeds and the excess pulp removed from the juice. Pour strained juice into a large stock pot, add sugar to taste if desired, my oranges were pretty sweet so I only added 1/2 cup sugar to a full gallon of juice.  Heat juice to 190 degrees farenheit and then maintain temperature for 5 full minutes at the 190 degrees farenheit. DO NOT BOIL.  Ladle hot juice into prepared hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a spoon. Cap with two-piece canning lids. Process 1/2 pints (good for single servings) pints and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

 

Fresh canned orange juice, looks like sunshine -yrcg

 

Yield: Varies with type and size of oranges. I got 8 pints  of juice out of a 5 gallon bucket of oranges. You can also can your grapefruit juice the same way.

Verdict: So far I have juiced and canned 8 pints and 15 – 1/2 pint jars from just over two gallons of juice and still have another 5 gallon bucket full of fresh oranges to go before I will be done with my juice oranges, so I should be ready to do some arm wrestling once I get done! 😉   This home canned homegrown orange juice is out of this world and I know exactly what is in it. The pulp will settle to the  bottom of the jar, just like the juices in the grocery store, that is why they say shake well before serving!  To serve; chill juice, shake well, open and enjoy home grown sunshine.   

 

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Basic Scones a.k.a Basic Biscuits – January 2012 Daring Bakers Challenge

I missed the last two Daring Bakers challenges so this month’s challenge was a pleasure. Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Audax worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens! 

What we call biscuits in other countries are called scones and many are mixed with other ingredients to become sweet breads. So many folks are terrified at trying to make biscuits from scratch after trying once or twice and failing and never trying again.

My mom and grandmothers were excellent biscuits makers, throwing flour in a bowl, dash of this and that never measuring anything as they knew the amount of ingredients by heart just by sight and light fluffy biscuits always came out of the oven which was because of years of practice and of course their love.

I am still working on my biscuit making skills, sometimes they come out nice and fluffy other times, not so much but I keep on working at it. Making biscuits (a.k.a. scones) is easy in that the ingredients are typically in most kitchens and are very inexpensive to make at about 50 cents a batch for this particular recipe. This recipe makes a small batch so if the first one does not come out, you can try again. This is also a great recipe being small batches for one or two people. So let’s get started:

Flaky Biscuits at last ! - yrcg

Basic Scones (a.k.a Basic Biscuits) from Audax Artifex

Ingredients;

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons FRESH baking powder. (See my homemade ingredient post for fresh homemade baking powder and you will never go back to store bought!)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons frozen grated butter( or a combination of lard and butter)

Approximately 1/2 cold milk )

Optional 1 Tablespoon milk for glazing the tops of the scones, before baking

1. Preheat oven to very hot 475 degrees. Each oven has variables so you may have to adjust. I had to decrease the temperature to 450 degrees for my gas oven or the biscuits burned before they cooked all the way, so be sure to watch them.

2.Triple sift the dry ingredients…flour,baking powder and salt into a large bowl. If your room temperature is very hot, refrigerate your sifted ingredients until cold.

3. Rub the grated butter ( or combination of lard and butter) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.

4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour and mix until it forms sticky dough. Add the remaining liquid if needed. The wetter the dough the lighter the biscuits (scones) will be!

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour top of dough. Knead gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press to firmly) until the dough is smooth to get tender scones. To get a more layered type biscuit , knead very gently once again, do not press too firmly then fold and turn kneaded dough three or four times folding each time.

6. Pat or roll out the dough to 3/4 inch thickness. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter stamp out the biscuits without twisting the biscuit cutter, just press down and then lift up. Gently roll up the scraps and you should be able to get two more biscuits. If you do not want biscuits shapes you can press the dough into a round pan to the 3/4 inch thickness and use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire. I made wedges and I love them, so easy and no re-rolling!

7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you want soft sided biscuits ( a.k.a. scones) or spaced widely apart if you want crispy sided biscuits.

8. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour to your biscuits or lightly flour is you want a more traditional look.

9. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, check at 8 minutes since each oven varies. Bake until the biscuits are well risen and are lightly coloured tops. The biscuits are ready when the sides are set.

10. Immediately place onto a cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

Verdict: I really liked this recipe and the biscuits came out nice and layer and flaky. I made scone type wedges instead of round biscuits so this batch made 4 wedges which was just right for our dinner. I will continue working this recipe because of the small batches and try out Audax’s variations.

Variations on the Basic Recipe:

Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons. Aim at pea-sized pieces of fat coated in the flour. Glaze with buttermilk.

Cream – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with cream, add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Aim of beach side pieces of fat coated in flour. Glaze with cream.

Cheese and Chive – follow the Basic recipe but add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2 add 1/2 teaspoon sifted mustard powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional), 1/2 cup grated cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives into the sifted ingredients. Aim at beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour. Bake rounds in widely spaced in the baking dish and sprinkle the rounds with black pepper before baking.

Fresh Herb – follow the Basic recipe above after incorporating the fat into the flour add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs such as parsley, dill, chives,etc.

Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after adding the fat  aiming at beach sand sized pieces of fat and 1/4 cup dried fruit..raisins, currants,cranberries,cherries,etc and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Cut into biscuits or shape into scones.

I hope you will have fun trying out the different flavors as you get more practice making these small batches.

 

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