Little River Bed and Breakfast
Innkeeper(s): Paula & Rob Fox
Cookie Tour 2013 - Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Cookies 31 Dec 2013, 8:43 pm
As the new year is rapidly approaching, I am trying to squeak this 2013 blog posting in under the wire! If you've been waiting anxiously for this posting, I am sorry (and a bit surprised), but I will admit that the delay allowed me to try a couple of extra variations to the recipe that might be interesting to some (or at least I hope they will). So here goes!
Cookie Tour 2013! This year's Currier and Ives Cookie Tour was held on December 14th and was a lot of fun (as always)! Although last year was a record-breaker for us (we baked 24 dozen (that's 288) cookies and still ran out!), this year's event was a little less crazy. We actually planned to bake over 400 cookies, but as the date got closer and the weather forecasters issued warnings for the impending snowstorm, we worried if the weather might keep some from venturing out, and pared back to about 300. Our recipe this year was... Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Cookies ... and I will admit that I think this is probably my personal favorite of the four years we've been participating as a stop on the tour. It is rich, gooey, chocolatey, and just plain yummy. (For previous years' recipes, see our blog postings for the 2012, 2011, and 2010.)
The recipe started with a Turtle Cookie recipe I found on Pinterest, then followed to a number of blogs, the authors of which had adapted the recipe from an America's Test Kitchen recipe. I was loving the idea... caramel, pecans, chocolate... but Rob wasn't (he doesn't like pecans) so he was trying to sway me in any other direction. Fortunately, while looking through some of the blog comments, someone suggested crushed pretzels as an alternative to the nuts, for a sort of "salted caramel taste" that is so popular right now. So, that was it... and I was off to the kitchen!
For the first batch, I pretty much made the recipe as presented, making only a couple of modifications. I used Dutch Processed Cocoa, reduced the amount of egg white needed, and rolled the cookie dough in pretzel crumbs instead of pecans. The cookies were delicious... and I was oddly disappointed. It was too easy! Luckily (yes, I said luckily), I didn't have any pre-made caramel candies on hand to finish off the cookies. That meant I needed to see if I could make something from scratch that would work. Yeah!
So... back to the lab... I mean kitchen! And with the help of Google I found a recipe for caramels that used only ingredients I regularly keep in my pantry and refrigerator (sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and butter) and for bonus points, the recipe was cooked in the microwave instead of on the stove (which can be a bit tedious). A couple of batches later, I had reduced the size of the batch in half to better match up with the quantity of caramel needed for the cookies (the cooking time was critical here) and added just a little bit of heavy cream so that the caramel would be just the right amount of soft, but not sticky.
So without further ado, here are the recipes for the cookies and the optional homemade caramel filling. (If you like illustrated recipes, I've also added a bunch of photos below to help.) Enjoy!
Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Cookies
(For pdf, click HERE)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. cocoa powder (Hershey’s Special Dark works great!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 large eggs, separated
¼ c. milk or half & half
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. pretzels, crushed
28 soft caramel candies (such as Kraft Caramels) *or try our version*
2 Tblsp. heavy cream
Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks, milk, and vanilla; mix until incorporated. With beater on low, add flour, cocoa and salt, mixing until just combined.
Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheets. (If dough it too soft or sticky, it can be refrigerated, about an hour, until firm.)
Add a tablespoon or two of water to the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until frothy. Place crushed pretzels in another bowl. Roll scooped dough into balls, dip in egg whites (I only dip the top half), and then in pretzels. Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with the ball of your hand. Use a small measuring spoon to make an indentation in the center of each dough ball.
Bake at 350 degrees F until set and looking slightly crackled on top, about 12 minutes. When cookies come out of the oven, gently re-press the indentations.
For the caramel filling: Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Allow cookies to cool a bit, then fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel mixture.
For the chocolate drizzle (optional): Melt ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2 teaspoons shortening in a small bowl, then transfer to a zip-top plastic bag. Snip the corner of the plastic bag and drizzle chocolate over cookies.
Microwave Caramel Filling
2 Tablespoons butter, cut in 4 pieces
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons heavy cream
In microwave safe bowl (I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup), combine butter, white and brown sugar, syrup, sweetened condensed milk, & vanilla. Stir and place in microwave, uncovered. Cook in microwave on full power for 3 1/2 minutes, stopping and carefully stirring thoroughly twice during the cooking time (every minute or so).* Carefully remove bowl from microwave and stir in heavy cream until well mixed. Allow caramel to stand for about 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly. Use a spoon or small scoop to fill each cookie indentation with about ½ to 1 teaspoon caramel mixture. (Any leftover caramel can be poured onto a cookie sheet or other pan lined with foil or parchment and sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Cooled caramel can be cut into small pieces and enjoyed as candy.)
* Recommended cooking time is based on a 1100-watt microwave. If yours has a different wattage, you will most likely need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If caramel is too hard, cooking time should be reduced. If caramel is too soft, cooking time should be increased.
|Cookie dough, egg whites and pretzel crumbs... ready to go!|
|Dip cookie dough in frothy egg white...|
|... then crushed pretzels.|
|Place on Silpat, flatten slightly with hand, and make indentation with teaspoon.|
|Cookies ready to be baked.|
|Chocolate drizzle too!|
|Ingredients mixed prior to cooking.|
|Partway through cooking process.|
|Finished caramel, waiting to cool slightly.|
** Interested in variations? I've made the "original" turtle cookie with pecans instead of pretzel crumbs (delicious!) and a peanut butter version where I rolled the cookies in chopped peanuts and added a big spoonful of creamy peanut butter to the caramel (also delicious, but less gooey since the peanut butter firms up the caramel filling a bit). Still to be tried... a s'mores version where you roll the cookie in graham cracker crumbs and use marshmallow fluff as the filling (bonus: toast the top of the marshmallow filling with a kitchen torch) and a version where you roll the cookies in toasted coconut. I could go on... but I won't, so you can let your own creative ideas flow!
And with the new year already being welcomed in parts of the world, I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and delicious 2014!
Shopping Small Business Peterborough 7 Dec 2013, 4:11 pmEveryone knows about "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" but some people are still learning about "Small Business Saturday" Now it's true, Small Business Saturday has come and gone for this year but that doesn't mean you can't continue to go out and shop you local independent businesses.
|Twelve Pine Cafe all decorated for holidays|
|Candy Cane Pole on Main Street|
|Shops on Grove Street|
Around Town Part I: Harlow's Pub 4 Nov 2013, 1:02 pmWe thought it was time to start an in-depth look at the shops and restaurants that help make Peterborough such a great destination (and place to live). Since we had lunch at Harlow's the other day (it's a one mile walk from Little River B&B), we decided it would be a logical place to kick off this series of blog postings.
Geary's HSA and Longtrail Ale which are both Northern New England brews.
Opening doors to the best of New Hampshire 28 Oct 2013, 8:38 pmNH Open Doors Weekend is coming soon... November 2 & 3, 2013. Presented by the League of NH Craftsmen and New Hampshire Made, this self-guided event brings together two days of some of the best shopping (always tax-free), eating, touring and special events. Participate in the Passport Contest and enter to win great prizes by visiting 10 locations (or just 5 in the White Mountains/Great North Woods Region).
Some of the special events in the Monadnock Region and nearby include:
- Wheel throwing and hand-building techniques by Lulu Fichter in Peterborough
- Metal spinning demonstrations at Gibson Pewter in Hillsborough
- Pottery demonstrations (at noon) at Five Wings Studio in Fitzwilliam
- A demonstration of hot wax application to panels by encaustic artists Jessie Pollock and Danielle Lebris in Peterborough
- Shaker and Colonial Box making at Frye's Measure Mill gift shop in Wilton
- Wine tastings at Poocham Hill Winery in Westmoreland, Walpole Mountain View Winery in Walpole, or LaBelle Winery in Amherst
- Make your own ice cream sundaes at the Walpole Ice Cream Scoop Shop in Walpole
- See the dairy herd in action at Stonewall Farm in Keene
... and more! (See the Special Events page for the full listings.)
Use the NH Open Doors website to create your own self-guided tour using an interactive map of participants by region. With over 150 participants, there's something for everyone.
Pumpkinfest 2013...a new World's Record? 20 Oct 2013, 6:06 pmPumpkinfest started over twenty years ago as a small family event that attracted just 600 carved Jack O'Lanterns in its first year. It quickly grew into a large seasonal celebration of fall attracting more than 20,000 Jack O'Lanterns including a world record.
With family visiting from Ohio, we decided it was time for us to attend Pumpkinfest again and carve Jack O'Lanterns to add to the record breaking attempt. We carved four pumpkins, a Cheshire Cat, a Funny Monster Face, an Ohio State "O" and a Hello Kitty.
Pumpkinfest has fun activities scheduled throughout the day including pumpkin bowling, one mile fun run for charity, make your own scarecrows, face-painting and a ferris wheel right on Main Street. This of course is in addition to the (hopefully) 30,000 carved pumpkins lining Main Street and scaffolding.
We got there around 4PM, registered and strategically placed our Jack O'Lanterns and then began our slow stroll up one side of Main Street with a planned return down the other side hoping to take in as many creative carvings as we could spot. There was entertainment everywhere from bands playing Beatles music to line dancers and dance teams.
Henniker Brewing Company 11 Oct 2013, 12:42 pmOK, we don't want guests (or potential guests) to think the innkeepers are lushes (because we aren't) but we like to support local businesses and appreciate a good beer every now and then. With microbreweries growing in popularity, we were excited when we read about the newest addition to the New Hampshire beer scene: the Henniker Brewing Company which is about forty minutes away in ... Henniker :)
|Dave serving customers at the tasting counter|
|Gleason Falls Stone Arch Bridge|
|Dave showing off the fermentation tanks|
A-Maize-ing Maze 4 Oct 2013, 2:31 pmIt was a beautiful Fall day and the colors were really starting to pop so we decided to go for a scenic drive down to Mason and Washburn's Windy Hill Orchard.
|All aboard for a hay ride|
|Follow me into the maze, "bwa ha ha"|
|Man these stalks are really high...I am six feet tall!|
|We found the exit...finally...yay!|
|Now where did they hide those darn pumpkins?|
Purgatory Falls 28 Sep 2013, 8:00 pmIt doesn't seem to matter how long we have lived here (going on eight years), we always find new and exciting hikes we have never done before. Two weeks ago that hike was Purgatory Falls (on Purgatory Brook) in Lyndeborough.
We thought we were going to do a six mile round-trip hike which would take us from the Lower Falls near the Southern trailhead all the way to the Upper Falls near the Northern Terminus but the trail between the falls isn't really contiguous.
|Rob at Lower Falls|
After passing the Lower Falls, we hiked on for about another mile following the brook all the way. It was very nice but the trail started to get less well traveled and we decided to turn back and simply drive around to the Upper Falls trailhead.
Anyone looking for an easy hike with waterfall features, this hike (both of them) are a recommend!
LaBelle WInery and America's Stonhenge 20 Sep 2013, 12:58 pm
It was one of those days that was just too beautiful to stay inside, so we decided to head out and explore! Our first stop was LaBelle Winery in Amherst. At the tasting room, café, and shop, we were greeted and introduced to the winery and our options for tours and tasting. Instead of a tour, we opted for a wine tasting and light lunch. For the tasting ($8 for 5 selections or $13 for 10). we received a card with descriptions of all the wines available and places to check-off our choices. The options included whites, reds, and fruit wines, including dry, sweet, dessert and cooking wines. Since Rob is not much of a red wine drinker, we tried mostly whites… selecting a few ourselves, and asking our server for suggestions on others.
Our selections included:
Dry Apple – described as being a good choice for Pinot Grigio drinkers, made from all NH-grown apples... it was very light tasting
Dry Riesling – made in the Alsatian style… it was good, but not exciting
Corazon – a blend of Seyval Blanc and Red Raspberry wine, described by our server as a rose, but not too sweet… this one was definitely on the sweeter side, but would be a nice picnic wine
Granite State Red – a red grape wine aged in oak with a touch of blueberry… pretty good
Dulce – a spiced dessert wine enhanced with maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla… think Christmas!
With lunch, we also decided to try the Seyval and a second wine described as a Dry Seyval. The Seyval was good, but a little on the sweet side, however the Dry Seyval, labeled as Winemaker’s Reserve Seyval Blanc and described as being bottled and aged two years, was excellent (and the variety we decided to buy a bottle of to bring home). The café itself is very casual with tables available inside the tasting room and outside on the terrace and a menu that included soups, salads, small plates, cheese slates, and sandwiches. Since it was such a beautiful day, we opted for the terrace and picked a small cheese plate for our lunch – a combination of cheeses, crackers, dried fruits, and nuts. Tasty, and just right. (Note: LaBelle Winery is located on the main route between Peterborough and the Manchester Airport - about 40 minutes from the B&B, 20 minutes from the airport. It would make for a nice, casual place to relax is you find yourself with extra time in your travels.)
|Rock formations at America's Stonehenge|
Our next stop was America’s Stonehenge in Salem. (Not to be confused with our own "Stonehenge" just up the road in Peterborough - photo at end of blog... just for fun.) We really didn’t know much about the location in Salem, so we thought we’d check it out for ourselves. The drive from the winery took only about 35 minutes, but we were a little surprised to find the site tucked in an unremarkable, wooded, residential neighborhood. Neither one of us has been to Stonehenge in England, but the name sets up expectations of a large ring of enormous stones. America’s Stonehenge is NOT that, but it does have archaeological significance dating back over 4000 years. The site is mostly a series of man-made chambers and ceremonial sites… more underground than above. (The site’s original name was Mystery Hill Caves.) What the Salem site does have in common with its English namesake are stones with significant astronomical alignment… corresponding to sunrises and sunsets on various solstice, equinox, and other dates. All-in-all, the Visitors’ Center, informational video, and tour markers are a little dated, and at $11 per person the attraction was a little pricey, but it was interesting and we were glad we went.
|Looking out in the direction of the Summer Solstice and August 1 sunsets|
And finally, since we just can't pass up ice cream, we were happy to make a stop at Moo’s Place in North Salem. Although I had never heard of it, Rob had just seen a list of the Top 25 ice cream places in NH and Moo’s Place was #11, simply reinforcing our need to stop. To our delight, they make their own ice cream (not at this location, but at their other shop in Derry) and had some interesting flavors. I had to try the Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge and Rob got…ummmm… something else. The ice cream was creamy and delicious! A sweet end to a great day!
|Teixeira Park - Peterborough's "Stonehenge" :)|
Back to (Book) School 13 Sep 2013, 9:26 am
Back to school is not just for the kids! Local artist Erin Sweeney recently held her ninth annual Book School at her studio on Main Street in Peterborough. Described on her website as a "week-long book arts extravaganza", this year's workshop began with the creation of beautiful hand-printed paste paper and continued with its transformation into books of all types - Spider book, traditional album, Long Stitch on tapes, Hinged Box Book, Coptic, and variations.
|Artist Erin Sweeney teaching Book School|
|Hands at work - Stitching the Spider book|
We were lucky enough to be introduced to Erin through one of our guests. This guest has returned to stay with us for Erin's Book School for four years now! A treat for me is the Show-and-Tell portion of her stay when she lets me see what she has been working on!
|More work on the Spider book|
Now I must say, I am a lover of art, craft, and all-things-paper, so I am drawn to Erin's work. The colors, the textures, the creativity... and the results! Beautiful!
For more information about Erin's work and workshops, see her Lovely in the Home Press website or facebook page. Her work is featured in the current exhibit at the Sharon Arts Center, Main Gallery in Peterborough. The exhibit, titled (con)TEXT, focuses on text incorporated in art. The exhibit runs now through October 25, with a Curator's Talk on September 19 from 5 to 6:30 PM. Erin is also part of a group that presented a "Minis on Main" exhibit and sale of petite artwork this past May. The group, with 40 artists now participating, will be presenting another exhibit and sale in November, on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Held at the studios on the second floor at 30 Main Street, the exhibit will be held on November 29 and 30th, from 10 AM to 6 PM each day.
|Lovely in the Home Press studio at 30 Main Street|