Christmas

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

It’s not even December, but I can’t help diving into holiday season content. I just have too many recipes I’m excited to share! Normally I don’t start listening to Christmas music until December, or at the very least I wait until Thanksgiving is over, but I’ve been seriously in a holiday mood this year. I think it was all the baking I was doing the week before Thanksgiving and the early snow we got here in New England, but I have to confess that I had Christmas music playing in my kitchen two weeks ago. Oops!

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

If there’s one dessert that is guaranteed to get me in the Christmas spirit it has to be Diane’s fudge. I love my stepmom’s classic fudge recipe (and you all do too – it’s the most popular recipe on Lemon & Mocha!), but I love all the fun variations I’ve made over the years even more. I’ve shared S’mores Fudge – crazy good – and Chocolate Peppermint Fudge – so Christmasty!

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Today, we’re all about the Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge. In case you aren’t familiar, chocolate turtles are chocolate covered pecans with caramel inside and they kind of look like little turtles. I wanted to take those flavors and bring them into this classic semi-sweet chocolate fudge. The end result was messy, but so good!

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

The chopped pecans are folded into the fudge so you get a little crunch in each bite. The caramel is drizzled on the fudge then swirled in before the fudge sets.

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

I used Smucker’s salted caramel sauce since I love how quick it is to whip together a batch of fudge so I didn’t want to over-complicate it with homemade caramel. Do you think you will try this twist?

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Turtle Caramel Pecan Fudge
 
Yield: 36-64 pieces depending on how big you cut them
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ⅓ cup caramel, see note
Directions
  1. Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and the Baker’s chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in half the bag of chocolate chips and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula to help melt. Once partially melted add the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and stir until fully melted.
  4. Carefully stir in the condensed milk to combine and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and the pecans.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top of the fudge and use a knife to swirl into the fudge.
  6. Refrigerate until the fudge is set then cut into bite size pieces. Best eaten straight from the fridge.
Notes
Your caramel should be soft enough to drizzle off a spoon. If it’s too firm from being in the fridge, heat it slightly.

 

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Every time I make a dish with mushrooms in it, it immediately becomes one of Matt’s new favorite dishes. I’m also mushroom obsessed, but Matt is on a whole other level. When I ask him what he wants me to make, his answer is always “that <insert name of food here> with the mushrooms.” This Warm Mushroom Barley Salad was no exception. The reason I’m telling you all this is because I was distracted with getting ready for our Japan trip and I couldn’t think of what to write for this recipe so Matt said, “just tell them that I love it.” Haha! That would be my shortest post ever – Matt loves this dish. The end.

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love cooking with different grains and was excited to discover how much I liked pearled barley a few years ago. It has a nice chewy texture and a slightly nutty taste that pairs really well with the sautéed mixed mushrooms. You can use any mushrooms you want for this, but since it’s the star ingredient I recommend a mix of a few that are maybe a bit different from your usual cremini or white mushrooms. I used a combination of cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

The Warm Mushroom Barley Salad is a simple dish, but simple is good. Especially around the holidays, then simple is really good. You can make this dish ahead of time and warm it in the microwave or serve it right from the stove-top without using any precious holiday oven space.

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since it’s simple, feel free to jazz it up further with some of your own obsession ingredients. It would taste so good with some caramelized onions, some kale or even some garlicky chicken sausage – yum! Or just keep it as is and enjoy!

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

Warm Mushroom Barley Salad
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Directions
  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pearled barley then cook for 30 minutes, drain.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half the mushrooms for 5 minutes, until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper while they’re cooking. Then remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl. Reheat the skillet over medium-high heat with another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and the other half of the mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes, until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper while they’re cooking. Remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl.
  3. To the mushrooms add the drained barley, the lemon juice, parsley and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid to salt! Serve warm or room temperature.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine.

Strawberry Dutch Baby

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Yes, this recipe has a funny name, but I will get to that in a minute. For now, let’s focus on how absolutely delicious and stunning it looks. Beautiful! The enormous pancake is light and bursting with vanilla and cinnamon-sugar flavors. Crispy puffed pockets and softened doughy pillows cradle the syrupy strawberries and the whipped cream. Are you dreaming in your bed or did you actually just make this in no time at all with a blender and cast iron skillet? Since I just posted it you probably are dreaming, but you could be the later and be the hero of brunch this weekend.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

I had seen these Dutch babies on Instagram and cooking shows for a while now, but I never actually read through a recipe. I assumed to look so impressive that they must be complicated. I apologize to the last five years of my life for never reading a recipe because it is the opposite of complicated. Complicated doesn’t even exist on the same continent! The eggs are beaten until frothy then the rest of the ingredients are dumped in for some more mixing. I used a blender to do this to make it even easier. The mixture is poured into a cast iron skillet that’s been getting hot on the stove-top with melted butter. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet any oven safe skillet will work. Into the oven it goes! When it is done in the oven it gets sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, loaded with syrupy strawberries, and dolloped with whipped cream. In come the brunch eaters with their forks to savor the puffiness until the puff deflates, but the Dutch baby stays just as delicious.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

I came across this recipe when I was brainstorming for Christmas morning. I wanted something that would be minimally hands-on while also looking impressive. That’s hard to come by in the realm of brunch food. Thank the breakfast heavens for these oddly-named Dutch baby things. I did a bit of research, aka read Wikipedia, about the name and it turns out that this cross between a pancake and a popover isn’t Dutch at all. It is an American food and name said to be coined by a family cafe in Seattle, Washington in 1942. It seems to be their version of the German-style pancakes known as pfannkuchen, which look like slightly thicker crepes and are topped with fruit and sweet toppings. They speculate the Dutch part of the name came from the German word deutsch, which means German, but no word on where the baby part came in. My guess is that it is so delicious when you eat it that your speech becomes incoherent like a baby’s.

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Part of the Strawberry Dutch Baby’s deliciousness is that it has the perfect amount of sweetness. Even though the actual Dutch baby has no sugar in it, all the sweetness is coming from the cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top and the syrupy strawberries. So stop dreaming and start planning when you’re going to make this impressively easy popover pancake!

Strawberry Dutch Baby  |  Lemon & Mocha

Strawberry Dutch Baby
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, tops removed and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Blend the eggs until frothy and pale in a high-speed blender, about 1 minute. Add the milk, flour, cinnamon, and salt then continue to blend until combined.
  3. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, or an oven safe skillet. Once melted, remove from the heat and quickly pour in the prepared batter. Place right into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the pancake has puffed, about 18-22 minutes.
  4. While the Dutch baby is baking, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of the cinnamon-sugar (reserving some for the Dutch baby) over the sliced strawberries then stir to coat and let sit until the Dutch Baby is ready.
  5. When the Dutch Baby is done, remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar. Don’t be shy about it! Add the strawberries and whipped cream. Serve sliced with the extra strawberries and whipped cream.
Notes
If you do not have a blender, you can use a stand mixer or hand mixer.

Recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

When I was deciding what to bake up for Valentine’s Day I immediately thought of these Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies I made over Christmas. I initially made these more for Matt since he loves cherry, but they ended up being one of my favorite cookies.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

These soft and chewy cookies are loaded with cherry preserves, dried cherries, and chocolate chips. The flavor of the cherry preserves is subtle because the dried cherries and the chocolate chips take center stage. The combination of the two, especially baked into a chewy cookie, is habit-forming.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

One of my favorite things about these Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies though was that they stayed fresh in an airtight container for so long! Not that they will last that long in your house, unless you’re a crazy normal person like me and made 10 bazillion different kinds of cookies by the hundreds for Christmas. Then you’ll be happy to know that the dried cherries keep them tasting like you just made them the other day.

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

You will need red food coloring to get that perfect color for Valentine’s Day. Between these and the Red Velvet Oreo Truffle Chocolate Crunch Brownies I have a whole bunch of boxes of food coloring lying around with the red missing so I either need to invest in just red food coloring or come up with something for my green, yellow, and blue!

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and enjoy these Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies!

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Chocolate Cherry Crinkle Cookies
 
Yield: about 30 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup cherry jam or preserves
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup sweetened dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red sanding sugar
Directions
  1. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl beat the butter, ½ cup of the granulated sugar, and the brown sugar with a mixer on medium high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beat to combine, then add the jam, both extracts, and the food coloring. Beat until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour mixture on low speed and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate and dried cherries. Tightly cover the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough needs to be firm; I left my dough overnight both times.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set side.
  4. In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar and sanding sugar. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball and roll in the confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough and space about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden and the cookies are cracked on top, making sure not to overcook. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 Recipe from December 2017 issue of Food Network Magazine.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

aka Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Almond Ganache Filling and Coconut Buttercream

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

I can’t even with these cupcakes! Just look at their adorableness! Now I haven’t discussed it much on the blog, but I am not a decorator. I love to bake and I love to cook, which is mostly because I really, really (did I say really?) love to eat. But I do not like trying to make my food look pretty. If it ends up looking nice in the end that’s just an added bonus. I do not have the patience for it, although one day I would like to learn how to decorate and style my baked goods and dishes better.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

In the meantime, I’m just a regular home baker trying to make the best tasting things I can dream up. Where I’m going with all this is that if I can make these cupcakes look this ridiculously adorable that means you can, too. As long as you’re armed with the right ingredients and the right tools then you will be good to go.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Now, I’ve been so busy talking about the cute tree decorations that I haven’t even gotten to how amazing the cupcake tastes. I am obsessed with my Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes and my Chocolate Ganache so adding almonds and a coconut buttercream seemed like a fitting and delicious enhancement. The texture of the coconut buttercream is light and fluffy, while still being rich enough to stand up to the chocolate cupcake. You can adjust the intensity of the coconut flavoring based on your personal preference. That chocolate almond ganache is its usual swoon-worthy self amped up with chopped almonds to be the perfect molten surprise. Now have a bit of everything all together and yippee! Damn that’s good!

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

My favorite part about these cupcakes though are the reason I was inspired to make them: they remind me of my Babu. Everyone in my family has ceramic Christmas trees that my grandma painted. I know everyone in my family thinks about Babu everyday, but especially when they turn on their ceramic tree. They are decorated with little colored light “ornaments” and when they light up they remind me of everything that is wonderful and simple about Christmas. They make me think of family and tradition. I’m instantly transported to sitting with Babu at my parent’s house and putting in all the little lights while the smell of her cookies comes from the kitchen. Then suddenly we’re eating the cookies, making Christmas paper chains, putting ornaments on the tree, then snuggled in her bed reading our favorite Christmas stories. She even let me sing her Christmas carols and anyone who knows how, um, interesting, my singing voice is will know what a saint she was for that.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Although I loved, and very much miss, our crazy Christmas mornings with all my aunts, uncles and cousins, one of my favorite Christmas mornings with Babu was when I was older. We were at my parents’ house for Christmas morning and since it was just my brother and me, who were both in high school, everyone was sleeping in before present-opening. Babu and I are early risers so the two of us sat by the tree in the still, quiet house and opened a couple of our presents for each other having our very own private mini Christmas morning. It is a memory I will cherish forever. So happy holidays and merry Christmas to all my friends, family and fellow food lovers! Take a moment, or two, throughout all the craziness to enjoy the little things that will mean so much to you for years to come.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Christmas Tree Cupcakes
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
for the chocolate almond ganache
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1- 12 ounce bag of bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, more or less depending on preference
for the coconut buttercream
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, more or less depending on preference
  • Additional sweetened shredded coconut for decoration
for the tree decorations
  • 24 pretzel sticks
  • ½ bag green candy melts
  • Nonpareils
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Make the Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes according to the instructions then let cool.
for the chocolate almond ganache
  1. Heat the cream over medium heat until steaming, stirring constantly.
  2. Once steaming, remove the cream from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir then let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the butter to the chocolate mixture then stir until smooth. You might have to return to the lowest heat possible while stirring to get it completely smooth.
  4. Add the chopped almonds and stir to combine. Let cool until only slightly warm (I'm not sure if the cooling is completely necessary, but I thought the hot ganache would seep into the cupcake).
for the coconut buttercream
  1. Beat the butter for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy, with an electric mixer.
  2. On low speed carefully add the sugar, milk and coconut extract and mix. If the frosting looks too thin slowly add some more powdered sugar, but I didn't need to for this recipe. Add the shredded coconut and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread or pipe a thin layer onto the top of the cupcake. You might find piping easier because of the open hole with the ganache. Top with some shredded coconut for a "snow" effect.
for the tree decorations
  1. Line two baking sheets with wax paper. Use a baking sheet with edges so the nonpareils don't go flying all over your kitchen. Place the pretzel sticks a few inches apart.
  2. Prep a pastry bag with a skinny round tip (I think I used a Wilton round tip #2). Heat the candy melts in a double boiler over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Be sure not to overheat so the chocolate doesn't seize up. Carefully transfer to the pastry bag.
  3. Pipe the chocolate over each pretzel stick in the shape of the a tree. I made single zig-zag lines then went over them two more times. Start up a bit from the base of the pretzel stick so there's room to press the decoration into the cupcake. Do a couple then top with nonpareils or have a sprinkle elf help and sprinkle after you pipe (thanks, Matt!). Let sit at room temperature until firm then carefully pop off the wax paper. To place in the cupcakes I found it easiest to hold and press from the little bit of pretzel at the top - the chocolate is fragile and will break if you press it.
Notes
You can typically find candy melts (sometimes called chocolate or candy wafers) at your local craft store, such as Michaels or A.C. Moore.
This recipe makes enough ganache and buttercream for about 35 cupcakes so you will have leftover unless you make a double batch of cupcakes or reduce the ganache and buttercream recipes.

Chocolate almond ganache adapted from The Curvy Carrot.
Coconut buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart.
Chocolate tree inspiration from Just a Taste.