Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 13, 2010

Foodie with Family: Indulge sweet tooth

By Rebecca Lindamood, Local columnist
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---- — I have a child with an incurable sweet tooth. When overnighting at his grandmother's last December, he single-handedly defeated an entire platter of frosted cookies. For his birthday feast, he requested pancakes with syrup, finger gelatin, apples with caramel dip and scrambled eggs. (?!?) At our recent Christmas craft event with the kids' friends, he chose only edible crafts: emphasis on the sweet edible crafts. After the projects were done, I spied his little mitts clawing at plates of cookies, brownies and fudge while I was much too far away to stop him. I'm pretty sure he's sweet enough to ferment at this point. This might explain his effervescent personality.

Most of the year, I am on sentry duty preventing said youngster from sugar-toothing himself into trouble; carrot sticks, hummus, hard-boiled eggs and peanut butter abound. This time of year, however, I'm a little more lenient. The stockings will be stuffed with cheese crackers, pretzels, fun pencils, Matchbox cars, a fistful of bite-sized chocolate bars and a candy cane. Homemade sweets will fill plates from now 'til New Year's. If the little sugar bomb plunks down next to me on my chair and snitches from my teacup — an urge he has been known to indulge — he might just find me sipping on English Toffee Steamers. This is, quite possibly, the most sumptuous thing ever to happen to a cuppa black tea. If tea isn't your (ahem) cup of tea, stir this glorious sweet crème into hot chocolate or coffee, or splash a bit of rum in with hot water for Hot Buttered Rum. (Psst. I've filled shortbread sandwich cookies with this to rave reviews.)

While you're at it, how about whipping together a batch of homemade marshmallow crème? It is so easy and eliminates all the nasty preservatives and additives that you find in many commercially available versions. As with most homemade counterparts to commercial products, it just plain tastes better, too. Use it on hot chocolate, on peanut butter sandwiches, in fudge, or any other place you would use purchased marshmallow crème. The shelf life is much better in the freezer, and it is easily used from a frozen state, so my recommendation is to stash it in the deep chill chest.

English Toffee Steamers

2 c. marshmallow crème (preferably homemade, see below)

2 sticks salted butter, softened

1 c. honey (A light-colored honey works best.)

2 t. homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend (see below) or purchased pumpkin pie spices

½ t. freshly grated nutmeg

1 T. pure vanilla extract

Optional for serving: black tea, hot milk, rum and hot water, whipped cream

Add the marshmallow crème, softened butter, honey, Pumpkin Pie Spice blend and freshly grated nutmeg to the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl. Use the stand mixer or a hand mixer to beat on high until a smooth paste forms. Transfer contents to jars with tight-fitting lids and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

-- Gently adapted from Robin Joss of BigRedKitchen.com

To Serve:

For an English Toffee Steamer, stir 1-2 tablespoons of the paste into a steaming hot mug of milk or black tea.

For an English Toffee Coffee, stir 1-2 tablespoons into a mug of freshly brewed coffee.

For a Hot Buttered Rum, stir 1-2 tablespoons into a mug of very hot water with a splash of rum.

In any case, top with whipped cream!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

4 t. ground cinnamon

2 t. ground ginger

½ t. freshly grated nutmeg

½ t. ground cloves

⅛ t. ground allspice

Stir all ingredients together and stir in an airtight container in a dark place for best flavor.

Homemade Marshmallow Crème

3 large egg whites

2 c. light corn syrup or cane syrup

½ t. salt

2 c. powdered sugar

1½ T. pure vanilla extract

Add the egg whites, corn or cane syrup and salt to a large mixing bowl or the work bowl of a stand mixer. Use a mixer (either stand or hand-held) with a whisk attachment to whip the mixture on high for 10 minutes or until thick. It will be very fluffy and expand quite a bit.

Turn off the mixer and sprinkle the powdered sugar over the top. With the mixer on low (to avoid sugar flying everywhere) incorporate the sugar into the fluff. When the mixture is once again even, beat in the vanilla extract.

Transfer the contents to freezer- or refrigerator-safe containers with tight-fitting lids. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to one month.

For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to www.foodiewithfamily.com or Rebecca's new blog, www.icouldeatthat.com. Write to Rebecca at rebecca@foodiewithfamily.com to share your adventures and favorite recipes. For more of Rebecca's Record-Eagle columns, log on to record-eagle.com/rebeccalindamood.