One last hurrah for summer

Fudgesicles have never been something I’ve reached for when picking out a frozen treat at the grocery store. I usually go for Cherry Garcia or Rocky Road. But, when it comes to trying to make new things, I don’t discriminate.

When a friend on Facebook posted something about making fudge pops over the summer, I thought that sounded like a fun thing to try — especially after the success of my coconut-rum ice cream. I was feeling confident. The next time I was at the store, I bought a popsicle mold much like the one my mom had when I was a kid, except all the handles of hers were yellow. I tried the first recipe for fudge pops and it came out of the mold fine, but had a dry, almost chalky, consistency to it, and the flavor wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

As I’ve said before, I don’t give up. So I tried another recipe. And another. I tried three different recipes, a combination of the three recipes and a modified version of the one I started with. Apparently the fifth time’s a charm. I later figured out the dryness in the first recipe was caused by the cocoa powder. The second recipe called for sweetened condensed milk and it melted quickly while being taken out of the mold. It was also too sweet for my taste. The third recipe also didn’t come out of the mold very well. I cooked the ingredients to pudding consistency and it was overcooked. In fact, I ended up eating the popsicles out of the mold because they were stuck. The flavor was great, but popsicles have to, well, pop. On my fourth attempt, I tried making a variation by combining the ingredients to achieve the flavor I wanted, as well as those I had the most success with. Once again, they wouldn’t come out of the mold. The final time, I went back to the first recipe because it came out of the mold the best. I got rid of the cocoa powder and made a couple substitutions of my own. While the recipe is similar to a pudding recipe, take the mixture off the burner just before it gets as thick as you would cook pudding. These were my winners. After a page of crossed-out ingredients and notes in my kitchen notebook, I was finally able to put this one down in ink and enjoy the result out of the mold, just as proper fudgesicles should be eaten.

Ingredients
Makes 4 standard-size popsicles
2 heaping tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot or corn starch
1 1/4 cups soy milk or whole milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract
3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter

In the bottom of a medium saucepan over very low heat, gently melt the chocolate chips, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt and raise heat to medium. Cook mixture, stirring frequently until it thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter and stir until combined.

Set aside to cool slightly then pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight. To take them out of the mold, run the mold under hot water for about 10 seconds.

Cookies to satisfy any craving

pbcookie

When I was a kid, peanut butter cookies were my favorite treat. My mom used to make them by rolling the dough into balls and flattening them by making criss-cross fork imprints on the top. I used to love eating them warm shortly after they came out of the oven.

Around the same time, my grandmother in Wisconsin sent me a couple books from the “World Famous Muriel” series. In each book the heroine, Muriel, would solve mysteries as long as the person seeking her help provided her with peanut butter cookies. My grandmother must have seen that we had that in common.

Even now, I still enjoy peanut butter cookies; but I now use a recipe that incorporates chocolate. When I’m craving something sweet, I often turn to Curtis Stone’s Peanut Butter Cookies With Chocolate Chunks. The best part is how quickly they can be made. I had seen him make these cookies on an episode of “Take Home Chef,” and was delighted when the recipe was included in his most recent cookbook, “Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone.”

The original recipe calls for 5 ounces of semisweet chocolate. The first time I made them, all I had was a 4-ounce semisweet chocolate bar, and that turned out to be plenty. I once used chocolate chips, but I prefer chunks of chocolate for this recipe. When it comes to breaking up the chocolate, I’ve found the best way to do it is to smack the wrapped 4-ounce bar of chocolate on the edge of the counter until it feels broken up enough. The different size chunks add a homemade charm to the cookies. If using a stand mixer, just throw the whole bar into the bowl and let the stand mixer break it up into chunks.

The recipe says to remove the cookies from the oven when they’ve puffed up and begin to brown on top. At first, it might seem like you’re taking them out prematurely, but really, follow the recipe. The cookies continue to cook because of the residual heat. If you follow the recipe, you’ll have large, soft cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Ingredients
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated / caster sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.

Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Scoop about 3 tablespoonfuls of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies puff and begin to brown on top but are still very soft to the touch.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.

Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack and eat warm or cool completely.