Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Microwave sweets

A friend seemed surprised Friday to find me shopping for stocking stuffers. He claimed it was too early for that. Not at my house!

I like to do my shopping early, plan ahead what I'm cooking for the holidays, and save time wherever I can. That includes cooking.

I've always been a fan of the slow cooker, and I used my very first tax refund check to buy a microwave oven. I made a lot of quick recipes in that first microwave and continue to take shortcuts, from melting chocolate to boiling water, in my microwave.

So why not use that same appliance for holiday treats? My go-to fudge is a very simple recipe made in the microwave oven, so it was no surprise that I was drawn to another microwave fudge recipe, this one for Super-Easy Rocky Road Fudge, found in Nestle's "Holiday Recipes" publication. The photograph alone, showing off the marshmallows and walnuts, was enough to convince me to give it a try.

As the name implies, this fudge is simple, requiring just a minute in the microwave followed by a little stirring. The only time-consuming step for me was cracking the walnuts. I know that was the hard way to get chopped walnuts, but they are so good freshly cracked.

When I poured this fudge into a baking dish to cool, I made sure to leave plenty of the chocolatey treat behind in the bowl so I could eat it still warm. It was heavenly, especially the bites with chocolate, nuts and marshmallows.

If you have kids at home, let them help you make this fudge.

But you might want to keep the kids out of the kitchen for microwave peanut brittle. The mixture is just too hot for little guys. In fact, you really need to think ahead with this recipe to make sure you are prepared to get the hot bowl out of the microwave oven.

I've never made a lot of peanut brittle. As I've said before, I don't like to make recipes that require a candy thermometer, but this one does not. The nut and sugar mixture cooks in the microwave for a total of 8 to 10 minutes until bubbly and brown. The unmistakable aroma from the microwave also signals it's time for peanut brittle! I found this recipe at allrecipes.com and read the many reviews. I'm glad I did. I followed recommendations and used a glass mixing bowl with a handle so I could safely remove the very hot bowl with very hot ingredients from the microwave. My microwave is above my stove, so it's even more important to remove this mixture carefully, using a reliable pot holder (which I have very few of!) My microwave oven cooks fast; I used the 6 minutes recommendation for the first cooking and about 2 1/2 after stirring.

I spread out the peanut brittle on a cookie sheet prepared with spray but wasn't careful enough to spread it evenly. Some parts of my peanut brittle were thicker than others, and a little chewier than I like. Next time I'll be more careful to spread it evenly and quickly.

I hope you'll consider this delicious recipes when you're planning your holiday goodies this year.

Microwave Oven Peanut Brittle
  • 1 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Grease a baking sheet or use cooking spray and set aside.

In a large glass bowl with a handle, combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook in microwave for 6 to 7 minutes on high; mixture should be bubbly and peanuts browned. (Bowl and ingredients will be very hot.) Stir in butter and vanilla; cook 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Quickly stir in baking soda, just until mixture is foamy. Pour immediately onto greased baking sheet and spread to consistent, thin layer. Let cool 15 minutes or until set. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.


Super-Easy Rocky Road Fudge
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
Line 13- by-9-inch baking pan with foil; grease lightly.

Microwave morsels and sweetened condensed milk in large, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on high, 100 percent, power for 1 minute; stir. Morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in marshmallows and nuts.

Press mixture into prepared baking pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into pieces.


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