Pig Candy Bacon

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Pig Candy Bacon! If you ever needed a reason to eat candy for breakfast, permission granted. This marriage of brown sugar, spices, and hickory smoked bacon is the best idea since sliced bread! You’ll want to choose thick bacon to hold all the seasonings. Line a pan with foil despite the fact a rack is used; it just makes clean up that much faster. If you don’t….well, let’s just say the other people in your house won’t be waiting around for you. Once the glazed sweetmeat is taken out of the oven, all bets are off. The line forms here.

PIG CANDY BACON

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon wasabi powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons chili powder

8-10 slices bacon, thick cut

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix brown sugar, black pepper, wasabi powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder in a deep baking dish. Add bacon, one strip at a time; toss to coat well. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on pan. Lay bacon strips on rack in a single layer without overlapping. Place baking sheet one setting below top rack in oven. Bake 30-45 minutes, or until crisp. There is no need to turn the bacon. Carefully remove pan from oven. Let caramelized bacon cool slightly before transferring with a tongs to parchment paper.* Serve as a breakfast companion, appetizer, or snack.

* The second time I made Pig Candy, I pierced them with bamboo skewers after they were baked and they were spot on!

Kiwi Granita Siciliana

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Kiwi Granita Siciliana! Everyone knows Italy is famous for its pasta, wine, and pizza. It is also known for its granitas, a semi-frozen fruit concoction that can be served as a dessert at the end of a meal or to cleanse the palate between courses. Choose a flavor that mirrors your mood. Or choose one that reflects the season. The liquid can vary from champagne to coffee. I wanted to combine the melon-like fragrance of elderflower liqueur balancing the sweetness of ripened kiwi fruit with citrus undertones of lemongrass green tea. The results, in my opinion, are refreshingly harmonious. Ease into summer with charm and grace.

KIWI GRANITA SICILIANA

Ingredients:

6 kiwi, ripe

1 cup green lemongrass tea, chilled

1/2 cup St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

Instructions:

Peel kiwi fruit and place in a mini chopper. Pulse until smooth; it should appear the consistency of a purée. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish. Add green lemongrass tea, elderflower liqueur, sugar, and fresh lime juice. Mix well. Cover and freeze overnight. Using a fork, scrape icy shavings into the middle of the container until the entire mixture is in the form of flaky crystals. Keep frozen until ready to serve. Garnish with lime wedge.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake! You know you love chocolate. Who doesn’t? If you find yourself avoiding baked goods due to its wheat content, worry no more. This cake is completely flourless. The results are rich, chocolaty, and extremely satisfying for any sweet tooth craving. Dust it with powdered sugar and garnish each slice with fresh strawberries for a gourmet finish. Hurray for Chocolate!

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting

1/4 cup almond slices (optional)

Whipped cream

Fresh strawberries, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ round cake pan. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes on high. Stir after 1 minute. Repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans and eggs. Blend until smooth, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and baking powder. Pulse to mix. Pour in melted chocolate and almond extract. Blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Transfer batter to the cake pan. Bake 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Sprinkle with almond slices. Garnish with whipped cream and strawberries.

Nonpareil Thumbprint Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Nonpareil Thumbprint Cookies! Ask my husband what his favorite candy is and without hesitation, he’ll respond “Nonpareils”. Think about it… dark chocolate buttons sprinkled with tiny beads of white candy. And they’re French! With today’s recipe, the nonpareil takes center stage crowned over a dark chocolate thumbprint cookie as rich as a brownie. Dusted in powdered sugar, it’s just the right size for nibbling.

NONPAREIL THUMBPRINT COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup powdered sugar for rolling

40 nonpareils

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a small bowl. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, add yolks, cream, and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture just until combined. Roll balls using 1/2 tablespoon sized scoops of dough. Roll each ball in powdered sugar. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Press gently in the center to form an indentation. Bake 10 minutes or until set. Remove from oven. While cookies are warm, place one nonpareil in the middle of each cookie. Let cool before transferring to wire rack.

Yeast Cinnamon Rolls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Yeast Cinnamon Rolls! Don’t you just love modern kitchen appliances? My husband already owned a countertop Bread Machine when we got married seven years ago, so today I decided to try it out. (First I had to find it. When combining two households, things get shuffled around.) The recipe booklet boasted the best glazed cinnamon rolls and the photo bolstered my confidence enough to put it to the test. I’m glad I did. The house smelled like a family-owned bakery and the warm, gooey cinnamon buns were phenomenal. The challenge came at only eating one.

YEAST CINNAMON ROLLS

Ingredients for Dough:

1 cup water

2 tablespoons butter, softened

3 cups bread flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Ingredients for Filling:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Ingredients for Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

Instructions:

Measure all dough ingredients carefully and place in the bread machine in the order they are listed: water, butter, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Select “Dough” cycle and “Start”. When the timer rings, remove the dough and flatten with a rolling pin into a 9-inch square on a lightly floured surface. Spread with 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon filling over the buttered dough. Roll the dough up tightly; pinch the ends to seal. Cut the dough into 1-inch slices. Place in a 9″x9″ square pan. Cover with a wet tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until double. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Combine Glaze ingredients mixing powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Remove from pan to wire rack. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls. Serve warm.

Bourbon Balls

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Bourbon Balls! Remember the scene from “The Grinch Stole Christmas” where the adults in Whoville are throwing a key party? Well, I’m convinced they may have been nibbling on holiday Bourbon Balls based on the way they were flirting and having a crazy-fun time. Be forewarned. This recipe does contain chocolate and alcohol. You may want to mention it.

BOURBON BALLS

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

3 tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 cup bourbon

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Granulated sugar

Instructions:

Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor to make crumbs. Set aside. Over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate morsels; remove from heat. Blend in corn syrup and bourbon. In a large bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Add chocolate mixture. Blend well. Chill 30 minutes. Using a melon ball utensil, scoop dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container for several days to season flavor.

Velvet-Filled Pumpkin Roll

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Velvet-Filled Pumpkin Roll! Announcing a festive cake that looks as though you stopped by the bakery. Anyone can feel like a professional pastry chef with this holiday specialty. In a few simple steps, the rich pumpkin flavor is enhanced by the velvety cream filling. Afterwards all you have to do is sit back and bask in the accolades.

VELVET-FILLED PUMPKIN ROLL

Ingredients for Pumpkin Roll:

3 eggs

2/3 cup pumpkin purée

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients for Velvet Filling:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and line a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. For pumpkin roll combine eggs, pumpkin purée, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour. Mix until well blended. Pour into jelly roll pan and spread evenly to edges. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Sprinkle powdered sugar on a tea towel, turn cake onto towel, and remove the waxed paper. Starting at one end, roll the cake up, and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, combine Neufchâtel cheese, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar. Mix together until smooth and velvety. After one hour, unroll cake and spread the filling all the way to the edges. Reroll cake and refrigerate two hours longer. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.

Sugar-Spun Sponge Candy

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Sugar-Spun Sponge Candy! Take a walk down Memory Lane. Wonderful childhood memories come flooding back with this old-time classic favorite. You will seldom find it in candy stores unless you happen to stumble upon a family-owned place where the bell above the doorjamb jingles as you cross the threshold. Once inside, the glass showcase will feature this honeycomb-type toffee, golden in color, nestled inside a rich chocolate covering. It’s crisp and air-filled with a sponge-like appearance. Once you’ve had it, the memories linger on. Spoil yourself and make up a batch. Just like magic, it can be whipped up in about 15 minutes. Carry on the tradition, or begin your own this year.

SUGAR-SPUN SPONGE CANDY

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon baking soda

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

Instructions:

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and vinegar in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking about 10 minutes until mixture reaches 300° on a candy thermometer, or a drop of syrup becomes brittle in a glass of cold water. Immediately remove pan from heat and sift in baking soda. Mixture will foam up madly. Stir gently but thoroughly. Pour into well-buttered 9″ square pan. Do not spread. Let cool. Remove from pan and break into pieces over a large bowl. Sugary crumbs will appear all over the counter if the bowl is too small.

Instructions for Chocolate Coating:

Pour chocolate morsels into a glass bowl. Add 3 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Stir. Place in microwave for 5 minutes on 30% power. Halfway through, stir to blend smooth. Do not over cook. Keep warm on the stovetop over a double boiler. Dip each piece of sponge candy into chocolate. Coat completely or halfway depending on preference. The honeycomb and chocolate look appealing, in my opinion. Place pieces on waxed paper lined sheet pan. Chill to set.

Glorious Glazed Pecans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Glorious Glazed Pecans! Go to any big city or farmers market and you’ll find street vendors roasting sweet and savory candied nuts. The bakery aroma practically has you walking on air. Now you can bring this enticing smell and sugary sweetness right into your very own kitchen. I’ve made it a tradition to bake a couple batches for holiday gift-giving. When mixed with an assortment of smoked almonds, wasabi peas, salty cashews, and honey roasted peanuts, these glazed pecans become a gourmet choice for absolutely anyone on your list. In fact, anticipation creates excitement followed by open delight and thanksgiving.

GLORIOUS GLAZED PECANS

Ingredients:

1 pound pecan halves

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, room temperature

1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. In a small bowl mix sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well and set aside. In a large bowl beat egg white and water until frothy. Add one pound of pecans and coat well to cover. Pour sugar mixture over nuts. Stir completely to form a coating over pecans. Transfer nuts to the baking sheet. Form a single layer. Bake 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to form a crystallized finish. Remove from oven. Let cool and then store in an airtight container.