I purposed, before the birth of my daughter, to be the kind of mom I'd long wanted to be. At all costs. Unbeknownst to her, my daughter had thrown me a challenge. I needed to use my God-given talents and life's passions to be productive while still working around her needs and her schedule. Here are some daily adventures and small successes.


Handmade, part 7: How sweet it is!

A cookie exchange. One of those look-forward-to moments of the holiday season. I had to get my bake on. Except I'm not much of a baker. It's not that my creations don't turn out, but I'm far outshone by my mom. That's one bar that was set mighty high.

No fail recipe to the rescue. Rachel Ray's Five-Minute Fudge Wreath. I've been making this for a few years now, at least one wreath per Christmas. But I don't think I've ever made it just like she lays it out. I'm always throwing in a twist. This time: Sweet n' Salty Fudge. (And not in the form of a wreath.)

1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 bag (8-9 oz) butterscotch chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups very salty pretzels, broken into small pcs.; not crushed
Kosher salt or Fleur de Sel, for topping

Line bread loaf pan with wax or parchment paper, allowing ends of paper to stick out a couple of inches on either of the longer sides. Later, you will need these sides to easily remove the fudge from the pan.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips. When just melted, add entire can of condensed milk and stir. Add pretzels and stir to combine. Remove from heat and immediately pour mixture into lined bread pan.

Using a rubber spatula, evenly spread the fudge mixture into the pan. The fudge begins to set quickly, so you will want to move fast.

With a new clean rubber spatula in hand, begin to sprinkle salt over top of fudge, pressing it in gently with the spatula. 

Cover with plastic wrap or foil. Let cool and set completely in refrigerator for several hours. Typically, I leave it overnight. Can be made up to a week prior. No kiddin'.

Having this time used a bread loaf pan, I sliced it into 9 equal parts (for my 9 fellow cookie exchangers), slipped each portion into a sandwich bag, and cello-wrapped it up. Those pieces may look a little small, but a little of this stuff goes a long way.

The base ingredients for this fudge are always the same. The 2 chips and the condensed milk. I've never attempted white chocolate and such, though I know some have tried it. In the past, I've loved the following additions:

- Cranberry and orange extract
- Crushed peppermint and peppermint extract
- Oreo chunks
- Peanuts, rice krispies, and SKOR bits

And I usually do make it in the form of a wreath. Mind you, the plastic food wrap (as instructed in Rachel Ray's version) proved to be a nightmare for me the first time out of the blocks, so I now stick to wax or parchment paper to line the pans and cans.

As Ms. Ray would say: "Yum-o!"

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