The many aliased Chocolate Peanut Butter Bonbon

AKA: White Trash Bon Bons

AKA (if you are my husband): Pete’s Schweedy Balls

When I was a kid, my mom only made these babies during the holidays. Once made, she would horde them in a very miserly and un-holiday-like fashion, dispensing them one at a time and only to those she deemed deserving. This may sound strange at first because a quick look at the ingredient list doesn’t hint at anything special. If anything, it suggests (at least to me) one of those strange recipes only found in Reader’s Digest and only ever made by grandmothers (you know, like chocolate covered chow mein noodles or green salad in a jello mold). This is where the first AKA name comes from. The second AKA is a reference to a very funny, very perverse Saturday Night Live skit with Alec Baldwin and those naughty, naughty NPR ladies on the Delicious Dish.

Something cool happens when the melted peanut butter and butter (that’s right-BOTH) melds with the rice crispies and diabtes inducing amounts of confectioners sugar. I’ll be honest, these are a little labor intensive and are best made with some patience over a couple of days. But, they aren’t hard and, if you like chocolate and peanut butter together, they’re worth the effort. Another bonus: they don’t really go stale. After the chocolate has completely and totally tempered (seriously, like, entirely, trust me), store them in an air-tight container or freezer bag and they’ll be good through New Years. If they last that long. Ha!

First, get the biggest bowl you have. The recipe below is doubled but take my advice, bigger is better here.

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Once the peanut butter and butter are melted and molten hot, carefully add to the dry mix.

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Make a marginal effort to mix this up with a spatula and then abandon ship and just do it with your (clean) hands. Remember, this stuff is hot at first. Mix until everything starts to clump together. If, even after thorough mixing the “dough” is very dry, feel free to melt some more butter and add. I won’t tell anyone.

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Now you are ready for balls. I like mine to fit into cute little wrappers so I weigh out each ball at 1/2 ounce. For this phase, the work is made easier if you have two people: one to measure out portions and the other to form the balls. In the photo below, my husband is playing the role of hand model. Luckily, he works for peanuts (or, in this case, peanut butter).

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Once you’ve formed all of the “dough” into balls, line them up in a single layer on a cookie sheet or two, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

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Now for the dipping. You’ll need a double boiler. I know that they actually sell pots called “double boilers” but the truth is, a stock pot and large glass bowl work just as well. If you’ve never used a double boiler, just add a couple of inches of water to the bottom of the stock pot and fit the bowl over. You want the water to simmer but not boil.

A note here on chocolate. I like to use chocolate chips for a  chocolate coating. They come with a stabilizer in them that helps them keep their cute little chip shape when baked. This also comes in handy when using them as a candy coating because the stabilizers will help keep the candy form once it has hardened. You could also use dipping or molding chocolate  here as well.

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As the chocolate melts, gently stir. When melted, the chocolate will be too thick to properly dip your balls into. So, you are going to want to thin-out the melted chocolate with vegetable oil. This isn’t as weird as it sounds. In fact, if you’ve ever been to an event with a chocolate fountain (or if you have one at home like my friend Amber), they use the same process to get and keep their chocolate flowing.

I don’t have use a standard amount of oil. I just add it a tablespoon at a time (incorporating in between) until the chocolate is smooth and runs off the spatula in a thick by steady (ie, not gloppy) stream when lifted out of the chocolate.

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Now, take a deep breath. The next part isn’t as scary as it seems. To dip the balls, I like to use wooden bamboo skewers (the kind you use for BBQ kabobs). I spear a ball with the sharp end and insert it just far enough that the ball feels stable (maybe 1/8 “).

Next, I quickly dip the ball and cover it in one swoop. I then let it drip over the bowl and use an additional bamboo skewer to help set it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. My mom uses spoons with successful results. Try a few methods and find one that works for you. This phase takes some patience. It takes me about an hour to dip a batch (70 or so) balls.

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Now, set the dipped balls in a cool, safe place and let them set-up and temper over night. As they harden, their appearance will change from shiny-wet to a nice soft sheen.

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And now, you’ve got peanut butter bonbons and the world at your feet.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Bonbons

Makes about 70 ½ ounce balls (before they are dipped in chocolate)

2 C peanut butter (smooth or creamy)

.5 C Butter

4.5 C sifted powdered sugar

3 C rice crispies

12-24 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips

Wooden kabob skewers (available at the grocery store)

To make balls

Melt together peanut butter and butter. Meanwhile, in a large bowl (largest you have), sift in powdered sugar. Add in rice cripsies and combine. Once peanut butter and butter mixture is melted and combined, pour over sugar and rice cereal. Using an oiled spatula, fold mixture until combined (it will be hot, but this is sometimes easier to do with clean hands). The mixture will be crumbly and if it is too dry, melt additional peanut butter and add until dough comes together.

Using a 1 ounce scoop or spoon, form into balls. Place balls onto a cookie sheet or large plate and refrigerate at least two hours (I just do it over night).

To dip in chocolate

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Add oil as needed until chocolate is melted but consistency of hot fudge (not too runny, not too gloppy). To dip balls, spear one about ¼ way through with a wooden skewer. Quickly dip it in the chocolate to the entire ball is covered. Hold over chocolate and let extra chocolate drip back into the pot.

Set aside on parchment lined cookie sheets or plates to harden.

Notes:

For a firmer chocolate shell, you can add a stabilizing ingredient to the melted chocolate (such as paraffin or uncolored unscented candle wax). The chocolate will already have some stabilizers in it if you are using chocolate chops but adding the additional wax will help them harden.

The venerable rum butter nut

This is my absolute favorite holiday cookie. It’s a rich shortbread bite with pecans, butterscotch bits and a light rum-laced icing. Come December, radio stations can ring out holiday music and stores can deck the halls all they want, but for me, it isn’t Christmas until my first flaky bite of a rum butter nut cookie. Those who know me will probably chalk it up to the rum. Those who know me even better will know that on their own, I’m not a particular fan of any of the cookie’s main ingredients—even the rum. But, combine them and something miraculous happens.

I have absolutely no idea where the original recipe came from. My mom’s version is written on a pink card stock note card.  It’s so old that it calls for a margarine-like substance called Oleo. I have no idea if the stuff exists anymore which doesn’t matter because I’ve always just used butter.

I will warn you that this tends to be a polarizing cookie. People either really love it. Or don’t. To those who don’t, I say “more for me,”

The dough, once mixed, will be crumbly. Back in the dark ages, I used to form my own balls. Now I use a one-ounce scooper. The result is that mine come out as domes–not balls. I happen to be okay with this geometric configuration. If you are not, form the dough into balls of your desired size.

Go ahead and line them up on the cookie sheet in close proximity. Like any shortbread, they won’t expand during the baking process. You’ll know they are done when the bottoms are a light golden brown.

But wait, there’s more. Once completely cooled, these little nuggets get a nice bath in icing made of rum and confectioner’s sugar (you can always replace the rum with water).

The result? Pure cookie perfection.

Rum Butter Nut Cookies

Preheat over to 325 degrees

Makes about 5 dozen 1.5” balls

Cookies

  • 1.5 C butter, softened
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • ½ t. salt
  • 3.5 C flour, sifted
  • 12 oz butterscotch chips
  • 2 C pecans

Glaze

  • 2 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • ¼ C light rum (or water)

With a standing or hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift salt and flour together. With mixer on low, add in flour mixture until dough just comes together. By hand, mix in chips and pecans. Shape into 1-1.5” balls (I use a 1 ounce scooper). Space evenly on parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are just starting to brown.

Let cool completely.

Mix up glaze to desired consistency. Glaze cookies. Tip: Once glaze, I set them on a cooling rack to let the excess glaze drip off.

Turducken? Baduckey? It’s all meat to me.

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I threatened to provide follow-up on our Thanksgiving turducken breast—and who am I to not follow through on my threats (or as my mom would say to us kids when she was mad, ‘this is not a threat, it is a fact.’)?

Let’s start out by saying it was my husband’s idea. Around July he began opining on how tasty it would be if we had turducken for Thanksgiving. Now, if you haven’t been previously informed—or don’t pay any attention to the “Popular Searches” box on Yahoo’s homepage, I’m happy to enlighten you. Traditionally, a turducken is a turkey wrapped around a duck wrapped around a chicken—with the appropriate stuffings filled in between each layer of meat. According to the always reliable Wikipedia, its origins are of some dispute (as is generally true of all excessive meat products worth their weight in fat), but it seems to have appeared on the scene earlier this decade. Of course if you have any idea who John Madden is, you’ll also know that the dude loves him some turducken.

For the purposes of our small Thanksgiving assemblage, an entire turducken would be, well, just too much meat. So, a little research yielded a recipe for a turduken breast. This is effectively the same thing but only the breasts and stuffing—a veritable meat roll.

While I knew I could be up to the challenge of paillarding multiple layers of raw foul and then wrapping it all in bacon, I almost wept with joy when the butcher at Whole Foods told me I could order one from their special holiday list.

Well, the idea was good in theory. There seemed to be some sort of confusion when I showed up at the appointed time to procure my pre-ordered turducken breast. After much shuffling and running around, the butcher on duty presented me with what looked like it could be a turducken. He also mentioned that he’d knocked off three dollars a pound for my trouble. Hmmm.

All was explained the next day when I went to prepare the meat for grilling. I opened the neatly packaged birds to find duck. And chicken. But not turkey. Ahha! That explains the apologetic look in the butcher’s eyes. I could have taken it back, but in the spirit of culinary adventure I figured we already had enough birds to feed four. So, I wrapped it in bacon and a baducken was born.

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We then covered it in aluminum foil, threw it on the grill for a couple of hours and voila!

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I’ll admit, it was pretty tasty, though turducken it was not. Will there be a rematch next year in which I do what I should have done the first time and make the thing myself? Perhaps. Until then, happy Thanksgiving. And, to those of you frying your turkeys this year? I hope you have homeowners insurance.

It’s (almost) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hi there.

It’s been a while.

I take full responsibility. Gingerbread Royce really took it out of me. But, I seem to have found the human growth hormone equivalent for baking (really great vanilla perhaps) and am planned, organized and ready to embrace this holiday baking season. As someone who has always equated new beginnings with new outfits it seemed fitting that The Misanthropic Hostess blog found a new home and new look as well. So, here we are. Welcome!

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting my 2009 holiday recipes along with mediocre process pictures. By my count, there are about a dozen. At no extra charge (save shipping and handling), I also plan to document the full blow by blow of the preparation, grilling and final product that is to be our Thanksgiving Turducken Breast. Yeah, I know, ‘gee thanks.’

Just to get us started, I’ve posted a teaser photo. Stay tuned for details.

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Gingerbread Royce’s 15 Minutes

Gingerbread Royce has taking on a life of its own. In fact, I think Royce’s dance card is significantly more full than my own this holiday season.

GR, that charming devil, was featured in both the online UCLA staff and faculty newsletter and the online version of the alumni publication; UCLA Magazine:

Extreme Makeover

I also just got an email that GR made an appearance at the UCLA Athletic Department Holiday Party yesterday. It warms my heart that something I made took its place next to pie. I like pie.

Since I’ve now finished my holiday baking (of course I have photographic evidence…pictures to come) and the holiday cards are all in the mail, I’ve had a few moments to turn my thoughts toward what I could do to top Royce next year. I can think of only one thing: Yule Log. Stay tuned.

Royce In Situ

If you’ve ever watched the food pornography that is the Food Network, you’ll know that the most exciting part of those wild edible structure competitions is when the competitors have to move their creation from work space to display table. My adrenaline gets pumping more while watching “the transfer” than when they announce the brackets for March Madness. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll admit (even if it’s just to yourself) that just like there is joy in seeing the underdog upset a top ranked team in round one (as long as it isn’t UCLA), there is some pay-off when the structure doesn’t quite make-it.

Well, I’m happy for me (and sad for the adrenaline junkies) that Gingerbread Royce’s trip to its final destination was very uneventful. Indeed, it made it to UCLA all in one piece. More or less. I can’t vouch for how it looks now, a week later, but when I left it, Gingerbread Royce was whole.

Here she is, finally at home.

And now my friends, we’ve reached the end of the second half and fourth quarter. The clock has run out and it’s all over save part where the band takes the field–or court–and plays the Alma Mater. While the trip has been entertaining, it’s time for me to switch aprons—but not Crocs—and start my holiday baking. Today: green coconut and royal icing. Tomorrow: Sparkly sugar stars and rum butternuts. Hail to the hills of Westwood…

Royce Rising

Well folks, it’s done. I promised to deliver this process in excruciating detail, and so will not disappoint as I unveil my little project.

Let us begin with Petting Zoo. Apparently her palate does not stop at gingerbread. Here you see her in her native environment snacking on neon green shredded coconut. I cut her off immediately after exploiting her digitally as I didn’t fancy the idea of cleaning up green cat yak from front hallway runner (her carpet of choice when it comes to regurgitation).

When we last left off, I had roofs and landscaping ahead of me. All of the peaked roofs were decorated using “tiles” made out of three kinds of gum wrapped over pretzel sticks. Inspiration for this came while sitting in a staff meeting looking out the window at the roof of a similar Romanesque Revival style building at that school across town. It took over 500 hundred “tiles” to cover the peaked roofs.

Of all the structural elements that had me in a quagmire, the pyramids for the tower roofs were the worst. They say there are two kinds of people—algebra people and geometry people. Unfortunately for this project, I am definitely the former. And that’s why we love the Internet. After some quick and dirty research I learned about the golden triangle. Now, ratios I can understand. I built slightly undersized models out of paper and then crafted the gingerbread pieces over them. The rise is definitely too high if you compare it to the real building (as is the pitch on the roofs of the wings). It’s the thought that counts. Right?

The top of the building called for some creative license. Through all my searching, I was never able to find a real picture of Royce’s roof. So, I improvised.

Then it was time to landscape. There are some home baking techniques that span the generations. Dying shredded coconut green and using it for grass has to be one of them. To this day, my husband talks about his favorite birthday cake—a re-created baseball diamond his mom made from scratch. The grass? Green coconut. Why mess with perfection? I also used sugar wafers for the walkways and spearmint gumdroppy leaves for the hedges. I had planned to make trees but realized that they would just obscure the building.

And this brings us to the big picture. I’m not completely convinced it even looks like Royce Hall anymore. In fact, once the roofs went on, it began to look quite a bit like a Spanish hacienda. Eh. BUT it’s standing, it’s big, get within 10 feet of it and all you can smell is cinnamon AND every single bit is completely and totally edible. Just ask Petting Zoo.

Alas, my work here is not done. This weekend we will attempt to take a decent picture of it and transport it to my husband’s offices in Pauly Pavillion at UCLA.

Always Wear Sunscreen

Remember the Baz Lurhman “Wear Sunscreen” song/speech dealio that was popular around graduation time in 1999? There is a great piece in it that goes:

“Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

Let’s set aside just how appropriate this is when applied to our current economic conditions (because why talk about something important?) and instead apply it to the project at hand. I’ve anticipated stuff would come up along the way. You know, burnt dough, crooked walls, a national shortage of red food dye. And in fact, most of these things have happened. Of course, as is so articulately said above, it’s what we don’t anticipate that gets us. In my case it seems to be a plague of vermin. Well, one vermin. Who happens to be domestic. And have a taste for gingerbread. There is a reason Bella the Cat is nicknamed Petting Zoo. Yes, she actually ate the tips of both of the towers.

Now that we’ve had our fun, let’s get down to business. This weekend was sort of a coming of age for Project Royce. It didn’t run away or get caught up in drugs or anything (well, there was the violence with the cat), but, it did come out the end of the weekend an entirely different beast than going in.

The sunscreen speech says to “do one thing every day that scares you.” And so, I mapped out the board and started building.

Then the kitchen kind of exploded. There was brick-tinted icing everywhere. Everywhere! I love that part of the project where it looks like it a tornado has just swept through town and nothing is going to work out (can you see who is in the upper left hand corner just waiting for her chance to snack).

Amongst the chaos, these were a couple of my favorite details. I finally figured out how make stained glass (add in the crushed candy only for the last five minutes). The wreath is one of two that will hang from the two front towers (you can’t see here because I’m bad at taking pictures, but the stars are blue, yellow and white).

Just for reference, this is what the real deal looks like:

And while we are referencing, this is what the model looked like:

…and this is what my version looks like:


Front:


Side (please ignore Rosarita, she’s helping hold up the building while it dries).


And now comes the hard part: roofing. As careful as I was about right angles, building the different roofs is going to be a challenge. And then there is the landscaping. And the keeping away of the cat. And the wearing of sunscreen…