Friday, July 15, 2011

Knickerbocker Glory

You all tired from staying up to watch the midnight showing Harry Potter? I am, but it was so so worth it! Now that the series is over you are going to need to console yourself with some ice cream! So what better ice cream treat to have than the lavish knickerbocker glory from the first book?

"They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory didn't have enough ice cream on top, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first," (Rowling 26).

So the name knickerbocker, is what they used to call the Dutch in New England or you may know it as a type of pants. So the name originated in America, but nobody really knows what's up with the English stealing it for an ice cream sundae.

This is another easy one to make and it's kind of go with the flow like the trifle was.

  1. Get a tall glass (like the type traditionally used to serve milk shakes).
  2. Chop fruit into small slices or pieces. Ideally use colorful fruits like peaches, grapes, strawberries, melon or banana. Place these in the base of the glass.
  3. Add three scoops of ice cream on top of the fruit. A minimum 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream is the usual amount.
  4. Pour a fruit sauce over the ice cream - Melba (peach) sauce is traditional. Many other recipes call for Jell-O or jelly to put in the middle instead.
  5. Top this with thick whipped cream.
    • Put a cherry on top and add an ice cream wafer. Other toppings could include nuts or more fruit sauce. I added a Starburst on top, but I had them and I like them, don't judge me.
  6. Serve chilled along with a long ice cream spoon and a large napkin.

I adapted this recipe from here.

I used fresh peaches and peach Jell-O in the middle of mine, it tastes excellent!

A toast to the Boy Who Lived who helped shape our childhoods, cheers!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cauldron Cakes

“Tonight’s the night.  Let’s live it up!  I’ve got my ticket -- let’s all dress up!  Go out and smash it, like Harry Potter.  Jump on your broomstick.  You know you wanna!” 

Not quite as cool as the Black Eyed Peas version, but the point is, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 movie opens tonight at midnight!!!  I don’t think reality has quite sunk in for me yet.  I watched DH part 1 last night, though, so I’m getting pumped!  I’ll be munching on my Licorice Wands and sipping Butterbeer while I’m standing in line.  It’s going to be AWESOME!

Today is my last Harry Potter post to this blog.  After this, HP haters can stop rolling their eyes at me, and HP lovers will have to look to other sources for various wizarding world treats.  It’s a little sad, yes, but we have done quite a lot of Harry Potter food on this blog, and Anna still has another post tomorrow.  Enjoy it while it lasts!

My post today is on Cauldron Cakes.  Cauldron Cakes are a staple treat in the Harry Potter world, much like Pumpkin Pasties.  They are another invention of J.K. Rowling’s imagination, so there’s no set recipe.  I love it when that happens!  It’s so fun to make stuff up!

Cauldron Cakes have their fifteen minutes of fame in Goblet of Fire, while the gang is riding the Hogwarts Express.  “The lunch trolley came rattling along the corridor, and Harry bought a large stack of Cauldron Cakes for them to share” (Rowling 167).  Soon after, Malfoy comes in and causes his usual ruckus, insulting Ron’s family and in general picking a fight.  Hermione chided: 

“Don’t let Malfoy get to you, Ron –”

“Him!  Get to me!?  As if!” said Ron, picking up one of the remaining Cauldron Cakes and squashing it to a pulp. (170)

That is the best description Rowling provides for Cauldron Cakes.  From this, we can conclude that they are stackable and squishable.  Oh, and they’re cakes that resemble cauldrons.  Where to go from here?

I don’t live on the east coast anymore, so I haven’t had the chance to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter down in Orlando, Florida.  But as I’ve researched the various foods I’ve been cooking, I’ve seen lots of pictures crop up from that amusement park.  One of those pictures was the lollipop sugar quill that I posted – not exactly as accurate as sugar quills would be in the real Hogsmeade.  And while I’m sure they get some things right, in my opinion, they messed up on Cauldron Cakes, too:

 I have no idea what those white things are.  Is that suppose to be smoke?

While these things look delicious, they don’t look like they are very stackable.  The handle gets in the way, and the frosting on the cake doesn’t look like it would withstand much.  Maybe I’m just a total Harry Potter snob (I can hear you guys snorting: “Maybe, Mary?”), but I wanted my Cauldron Cakes to be as loyal to the books as possible.  And seeing as there’s so little description, it just doesn’t seem that difficult to do.

My inspiration for the Cauldron Cakes came from zebra cakes produced by Little Debbie.

I know, it’s sad to be inspired by Little Debbie, but when I pictured Cauldron Cakes, I pictured something like a zebra cake: soft cake covered in chocolate (or white chocolate in the zebra cake’s case), and filled with sweet cream.   Zebra cakes are definitely both stackable and squishable, so all that’s left is to make them look like cauldrons.  I didn’t do my Cauldron Cakes just like the Little Debbie treat, but I mine did have those characteristics.  Well, they may not be a very balanced stack, but they are stackable.

These cauldron cakes are a fairly big production.  Although it’s all pretty easy, it’s time consuming and takes up a lot of space.  Don’t undertake this project unless you have several hours to work on it!

Cauldron Cakes


1 chocolate cake mix
Other ingredients as listed on the box (most likely eggs, water, and butter)

Mix up cake according to package instructions.  Grease cupcake pans thoroughly and pour cake batter into pans.  Bake cupcakes according to package instructions.

By the way, cake is pretty much the only thing I’ll use a mix for.  I love homemade cake, but those butter recipe cake mixes are pretty darn good, and so easy.

When the cupcakes have been removed from the oven and cooled completely, you have two options.  You can make the cakes more rounded, or you can allow them to retain their cupcake shape. 

If you want them to retain their cupcake shape, all you have to do is cut a hole out of each cupcake.  I did so like this:

And then you can cut out more of the cake if you’d like, depending on how much filling you want to be in the cake.  Make sure to keep the tops of your cupcakes with their matching bottom – you will use them later.

If you would like rounded cakes, you have to stack two cupcakes like a sandwich, so that the wider parts are in the middle.  You’ll notice, however, that they don’t really stack very well.  You have to level them.  Taking a serrated knife, gently level the cupcakes by shaving off the rounded tops.  Use the line around the cakes from the rim of the pan as a guide for where to cut.   

Once you have leveled your cupcakes and sandwiched them, you can then take the top halves of each sandwich and cut a hole in the middle, so that it looks something like a doughnut.

Be careful to keep the “doughnut hole” center with the cupcake it was cut out of.  You’re going to use it later.

Next, you need to fill the cupcake with filling.


1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops almond extract
Food coloring (optional).

In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening together until smooth. Blend in confectioners' sugar and pinch of salt. Gradually beat in milk, as well as the vanilla and almond extracts.  Add food coloring, if desired (I dyed half of it purple, half yellow).  Beat until light and fluffy.  It will have the consistency (and color, if you didn't dye it) of homemade whipped cream.

Filling before I dyed it
Filling the Cakes:

Using a pastry bag, full the cupcakes until they are about 2/3 of the way from the top of the hole. Be careful not to overflow your cupcake with filling – scoop some out with a spoon if you have to much.  Also, be very gentle when filling your cupcakes, because the cake will tend to crack under the pressure.  If that happens, you can kind of glue it back together using a little more filling.  For the sandwiched cupcakes, you also need to add filling into the middle of the two cupcakes, to glue them together. 

Once you’re done filling the cakes, you can put the tops back on.  You only need the very top of the top, so cut off a thin portion of the tops, and gently push them back into the holes.   They should go down below the outer edge.  Be careful not to push too far and crack the cake wall!  You can snack on the remains of the tops while you do this.  There might even be some leftover filling to dip them in.

Half have the tops squished into them, half do not

4 of those big Hershey Bars – the biggest ones they sell in a regular grocery store.
1 tbsp shortening
Black food coloring

I used part milk and part special dark chocolate, but you can use whatever % cacao you want.  I broke the bars into pieces and stuck them in a glass bowl on the stove.  While the oven was one for the cupcakes, the chocolate gently melted without risk of burning.  I stirred occasionally.  When it came time to using the chocolate, I heated it up in 10 second intervals and stirred a ton until it was completely melted.  I then mixed in the shortening until melted.  I also dyed my chocolate with a TON of black food coloring.   You don’t have to do that, but I thought that black made the Cauldron Cakes look more cauldron-like.  When the chocolate is complete melted and the desired color, you are ready to coat your Cauldron Cakes.

I bought the Hershey bars because I didn’t want to worry about tempering chocolate.  I found out that if you melt your already tempered chocolate at a low temperature, you don’t have to temper it, and it will harden nicely.  The problem with chocolate chips is they don’t have that nice hard snap when they’re are melted and harden again.  I didn’t want the outer coating of my cauldron cakes to be melty and soft, so I used the Hershey Bars. 

Coating the Cakes in Chocolate:

Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Set a cauldron cake on the corner of a spatula and hold the spatula over your chocolate.  Spoon chocolate over Cauldron Cakes, careful not to fill the hole at the top.  Using a rubber spatula or fork, gently coax chocolate-covered cake off the spatula and onto the wax paper.  Be careful not to let it tip over!  Repeat this until all of your cakes are covered (you may need to reheat the chocolate a little bit if it starts to thicken – only do ten second intervals).   The chocolate may be very thick on some cakes, especially around the bottom. You can run your finger gently around each cauldron cake to wipe off some of the excess chocolate.  Put the chocolate on your finger back into the bowl.  When you are finished, place the cookie sheet full of Cauldron Cakes in the freezer.

Putting Potion in your Cauldrons:

1 square of vanilla almond bark, of equivalent of white chocolate
1 tsp shortening
Food coloring

Heat almond bark according to package instructions.  When it is completely melted, add desired food coloring (I also dyed this purple).  The almond bark won’t like the dye much and will start to seize up and thicken.  Add the shortening and stir until it is integrated and the almond bark smooths out again .  You can heat it another ten seconds and add more shortening if needed.

Take the Cauldron Cakes out of the freezer.  Using a spoon, carefully dollop small amounts of the almond bark into the dips in the cauldrons.  This will make it look like your cauldrons are filled with potion.  Pop back into the freezer for a few minutes to harden.  

Once it’s hardened, you’re done!  Enjoy your Cauldron Cakes.   They’re deliciously chocolaty, and the touch of almond extract in the filling makes them positively divine.  If you dyed your chocolate black, beware!  Your tongue will be black for hours to come.  :)

What they look like on the inside
 I really like the sandwiched cupcakes for their rounded quality, but in hindsight, I wish the opening had been a little bigger.  Next time I will cut off part of the top cupcake, so that the cauldron can have a wider hole.  That was the benefit of the non-sandwiched cupcakes, I suppose.  You can pipe on a rim around the top your cakes with any remaining chocolate, if you’d like.
Rims added
I hope you all enjoy the final installment of the Harry Potter series!  I know I will!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chocolate Frogs and Peppermint Toads

So when you first think of candy in Harry Potter, you probably think of Chocolate Frogs and with the final movie coming out you’re going to need to bring a supply to the theater. I'm going to have mine with me at midnight tomorrow! I'm really excited, I'm currently watching the first half of Deathly Hallows in preparation.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

"What are these?" Harry asked Ron, holding up a pack of Chocolate Frogs. "They're not REAL frogs, are they?" (Rowling 102).

Hogwarts train scene part with chocolate frogs, 1:17-1:55. Oh the first movie, classic.

Chocolate Frogs Recipe:

It’s really simple, just follow the melting directions on your bag of chocolate, whether you choose to use the microwave or double boiler.

Spoon it or pipe it into the molds with a plastic bag. You don’t have to put it in super nicely, it’s melty and if you pick it up and drop it gently and it will fill in everywhere.

Cool it for at least 15 minutes in the fridge and then you should be able to pop them out. You might need to shave little extra edges off with a knife. Note: make sure your kitchen isn't really warm or else the chocolate gets melty. Then look at all the yummy chocolate shavings in the bowl!

**Don’t melt too much chocolate at once, you can’t just melt it and cool it over and over all willy-nilly. Also you should know that I made that scarf, yeah I'm pretty awesome.

Peppermint Toads make their first appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I was skeptical at first because I was afraid that I'd end up putting in way too much peppermint, but it had a nice subtle flavor with a pleasant after-taste. "Peppermint creams shaped like toads ('hop realistically in the stomach!')" (Rowling 197). Sorry my toads, don't jump, let me know if you can figure that out.

Peppermint Toads Recipe:

frog or toad chocolate candy mold
white chocolate candy melts

peppermint candy flavoring oil, 2 drops did it for me
chocolate chips or other chocolate (optional)

You can use food coloring to make the white candy melts any color you'd like, since green would be appropriate. OR you can buy some of the white and green melting chocolate to use together.
Melt the chocolate according to the instructions.
Use a toothpick to add peppermint oil drop by drop until you have the desired taste. Be careful, since the peppermint oil is VERY strong!
Spoon the flavored chocolate mixture into the candy mold and let harden in the refrigerator.
When solid, pop out your toads and add the eyes with a small paintbrush and melted chocolate chips.

Look at them, they're so cute! Sorry I forgot to dye my toads green, oh well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bangers and Mash

Imagine standing in front of your kitchen stove, prodding some large, rotund sausages in a frying pan.  You are admiring the pleasant sizzling sound and the way your sausages are browning nicely, when BANG!  One of your sausages explodes.

That’s why the British refer to sausages (well, certain kinds of sausages) as “bangers.”  A pretty apt name, if you ask me.  Our typical sausages in the US, unfortunately, don’t bang or explode, because the casing around the meat isn’t sealed – it’s open at the edges.  See?

Takes the fun out of life, doesn’t it?  I suppose it takes a lot of kitchen accidents and lawsuits out of life, too, but who cares about that?

“Bangers and mash” is a common meal in the UK.  It consists of fried sausage (not the breakfast kind -- usually plain pork), mashed potatoes, and a beef-based gravy.  

I have always wanted to try bangers and mash.  First of all, I love mashed potatoes.  They were my favorite food when I was a kid.  (Now my favorite food is Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  I’ve matured a lot, eh?)  And I definitely like sausage.  Combine that with some gravy, and you’ve got a superb meal!  So I was delighted when I realized that bangers and mash is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix!  Of course, I'm quoting out of the American version, so sadly they changed “bangers” to “sausages,” but it’s the same thing.  After Harry tells Hermione to spread the word that the DA will meet in the Room of Requirement, “Harry [returns] hungrily back to his sausages and mash” (Rowling 388).  I’ll take the excuse to make ‘em!

Bangers and Mash

There are three parts to bangers and mash: sausages, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  Let’s start with the sausage.


The sausages I used weren't exactly traditional English bangers.  As mentioned before, they weren't sealed at the ends, so they certainly didn’t bang.  But they also were not plain pork sausages.  The best alternative I could find, that wasn’t breakfast sausage, was mild Italian sausage.  It was as close as I could get, and the sausages actually went really well with the rest of the ensemble.

To fry raw pork sausage, you have to be careful to make sure it’s completely cooked.  There’s this nasty disease called trichinosis.  I’ll let you follow that link if you want to know the gory details, but the point is, you don’t want to get it, so you have to make sure your pork products are cooked.  So what you do is put them in a frying pan, and then fill the pan with water until the sausages are about ¾ of the way covered.  Boil them covered for 20 minutes, then you can either uncover them and allow the water to boil off (takes around 15 minutes) or pour off the water and start frying.  The grease released from the sausages will help in frying the meat just enough to brown it.  Cut a sausage in half to make sure it’s no longer pink, and if it’s nice and brown and the fat’s melted, you’re good! 

Mashed Potatoes

Next thing to worry about is the potatoes.  Put a pot half-full of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.  Peel as many potatoes as you want (generally a medium potato per person is my rule), and chop them into thin slices so they will cook quickly.  When the water is boiling, dump the potatoes in, with a little salt, and cook them uncovered.  Check them every few minutes with a fork, to see how soft they are.  When a fork slides through the potatoes with ease, they’re done.  Pour off the water.

Now, I know I previously gave you guys a recipe for delicious mashed potatoes, but those potatoes are really flavorful because they’re meant to be eaten without gravy.  These mashed potatoes have gravy to go with them, so they don’t need quite as much pizzazz.  Here’s what I did:
  • 2 large potatoes, boiled
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup milk (roughly)
  • Dash of garlic powder
I dumped all of this into the pan I'd boiled the potatoes in (the potatoes were already in there), and used a hand mixer to whip them until they were nice and smooth.  Taste, and add more garlic or salt as needed.


For the gravy, I followed this recipe from the Food Network's site (I changed it a bit). It makes a delicious, sweet flavored gravy that doesn’t require beef drippings.  I highly recommend it. 

Mushroom and Onion Gravy
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned well and quartered
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar water  (½ tbsp sugar, ½ cup water)
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef stock
Melt butter on medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and thyme and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring rarely, until the mushrooms are slightly browned and soft, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and mix until fully incorporated. Stir occasionally, until the flour is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar water and vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Slowly pour in the stock and stir until smooth. Let the mixture come to a boil and cook until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes.

Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed. Lots of pepper is good in this dish!
After adding the flour

Boiling down and thickening.  It's nearly done!
And there you have it! Bangers and mash, as close to authentic as I could get without spending a fortune (I’m broke thanks to all these HP recipes – and I’ve been going cheap!).  I highly recommend that you try the gravy, at the very least.  But it’s all delicious and savory.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cockroach Clusters

I’m personally not a big fan of cockroaches, killing many of them living in the freshman dorms. Cockroach clusters are a better alternative to the real thing.

In Prisoner of Azkaban on page 197, we hear about said candy. Ron and Hermione are at Honeyduke’s at Hogsmeade while Harry is sneaking up on them thanks to the Marauder’s Map and the Invisibility Cloak.

Ron and Hermione were... examining a tray of blood-flavored lollipops. Harry sneaked up behind them.

"Ugh, no, Harry won't want one of those, they're for vampires, I expect," Hermione was saying.

"How about these?" said Ron, shoving a jar of Cockroach Clusters under Hermione's nose.

"Definitely not," said Harry.

Ron nearly dropped the jar.

6 oz. melted chocolate
6 oz. peanuts (unsalted) OR chow mein noodles OR pretzel sticks
chocolate sprinkles (optional)
(again lots of options, some recipes have raisins in them, pumpkin seeds, corn flakes, so customize it to your liking)

1. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave.
2. Stir in peanuts.
3. Drop onto wax Paper.
4. Before chocolate sprinkle the sprinkles onto each cluster...enjoy! Yes I did word it like that on purpose.
**I'm really sorry I have no idea what's going on with the fonts

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Note from Julie

A note from Julie:
"Davs! Hvordan gå det? Jeg elsker jer og jeg elsker MTC en.  Happy Cooking! <-- (I don't know how to say that yet)
According to Google translate, she said: 
"Hello! How does it go? I love you and I love a MTC. Happy Cooking!"
Danish is so cool!  (That was me, Mary.  But I'm sure Julie shares those sentiments.)  Interesting fact: when I typed this into google, I originally forgot to capitalize "davs!" and it translated it as "howdy!" instead of "Hello!"  I wonder if that's actually an accurate translation, or if Google is just being weird. Any Danish people out there?  


Hey! It's Anna, back to give you the first of many Harry Potter dessert recipes. Trifle is mentioned in several books. The first time is in Sorcerer's Stone, at the start of term feast.
"A moment later the desserts appeared. Blocks of ice cream in every flavor you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate éclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O, rice pudding..." (Rowling 125).
I have a copy of Sorcerer's Stone, like most of you, but in Philosopher's Stone (the British version), instead of Jell-O they say jelly in the UK. The British don't use jam and jelly interchangeably like we do, jam and jelly is jam to them and jelly for them is Jell-O for us. Everything clear as mud now? Good, today we're going to focus on trifle, not Jell-O. I don't know about you guys, but I really like chocolate, so we are going to look at a chocolate trifle recipe.

Note: You can easily substitute many of these ingredients for something similar, or even add ingredients it doesn't call for like strawberries, get creative! There's already brownies in it, you pretty much can't go wrong!

  • 1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix (try cheesecake pudding mix for fun)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed. Feel free to substitute French Vanilla flavored Cool Whip, or even just use whipping cream in it's place.
  • 1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (1.5 ounce) bar chocolate candy, or use chocolate chips, or chop up some candy bars instead
  1. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions and cool completely. (I know, I know, smelling those warm brownies right from the oven and not letting you eat them is really mean, but it'll be worth it I promise.) Cut into 1 inch squares.
  2. In a large bowl, combine pudding mix, water and sweetened condensed milk. Mix until smooth, then fold in 8 ounces whipped topping until no streaks remain.
  3. In a trifle bowl or glass serving dish, place half of the brownies, half of the pudding mixture and half of the 12 ounce container of whipped topping. Repeat layers. Shave chocolate onto top layer for garnish. Refrigerate 8 hours before serving.
Here's my own personal trifle, I added some caramel in the middle and a peanut butter cup on top. My family loved being able to personalize their own cup, but we're all wishing we weren't out of milk! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Hello friends! I'm Anna, I will be guest starring on this blog in Julie's absence. I'll give you a quick introduction and then we'll get down to what everyone's waiting for, food! Mary and I used to be roommates at Southern Virginia University, but now I'm at Brigham Young University studying Dietetics. I love cooking and baking, etc, my apartment is always filled with an abundance of food as Mary probably recalls from her trip to Utah. Well then, let's get down to business!
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 23
"Harry snorted into his plate of
goulash." (Rowling 418).
So, what is goulash? It sounds pretty weird, but you may have had it before at a chili cook-off or something. It's a Hungarian one-pot dish, similar to chili. I'm doing a Mexican variation because I like Mexican food, so there.

Mexican-Style Goulas
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2/3 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
In a large nonstick skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, water, chili powder, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni, (yes, put the uncooked noodles in the pot with everything else). Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Sprinkle with cheese; cover and cook 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
Here is the link for normal goulash if you don't want Mexican:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Butterbeer Reprise

I admit it: I felt a little envious that Julie got to try butterbeer last time and I didn’t.  So I decided to try out her butterbeer #3, which had her recommendation as the most authentic. I made a few adjustments based on her review of it, and my own imagination of what butterbeer ought to taste like (I think Julie and I had pretty much the same idea in our heads).  It took me about ten tries to get it right, and now, I believe, it is the perfect butterbeer recipe.  

How did I judge if it was perfect or not?  Here was my criteria, created after many many reads through the series and a careful study before I started creating my recipe:
  • Must taste good warm, enough to warm you up after a cold afternoon in Hogsmeade.  When Harry first tasted butterbeer, he “drank deeply.  It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat up every bit of him from the inside” (POA 201).
  • Must taste good chilled, as butterbeer is most often served in bottles meant to be kept cold, but still retain the warm buttery flavor.
  • Must be slightly fizzy.  Not milky, and not super fizzy – just enough carbonation to add the pleasant sensation of a bubbly drink.
  • Must have a butterscotch flavor, without being sickeningly sweet.  In an interview with Bon Appetit magazine, J.K. Rowling said “I imagine it to taste a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch” (Harry Potter Lexicon).  It can’t be so sweet that it’s repulsive, but it also can’t be so fizzy that it would be watery warm.
  • Must have a subtle flavor incorporated with the butterscotch to compliment it and make it uniquely “butterbeer” and not “butterscotchbeer.”
  • Must taste good! 
In the books, butterbeer has a very slight alcohol content – enough to make a little house elf tipsy, or lower inhibitions very slightly.  But “‘it’s not strong, that stuff,’” as Harry pointed out (GOF 536).  Seeing as I don’t drink alcohol, I chose to ignore this bit.  This is family friendly, alcohol-free butterbeer.  Other than the lack of alcohol, this recipe is completely loyal to the books.

I have a slightly different recipe depending on if you intend to drink the butterbeer warm or cold.  This is because carbonation doesn’t really work with warm drinks, and you want it to be a little fizzier cold, so you have to add the club soda after it’s chilled a little (also note that there is a little more club soda in the cold version).  Try it both ways!  It’s super fast to whip up, once you have all the ingredients.

This recipe calls for butterscotch syrup.  Don’t have any, and too cheap to buy some?  Make it homemade!  That’s what I did.  It was super easy.  I just followed the detailed instructions (with pictures!) at<-- That recipe makes the best butterscotch I’ve ever tasted, and I highly recommend using it rather than buying some butterscotch syrup.  If you insist on buying some, though, be sure to add a little vanilla to your butterbeer.  It makes all the difference in the world!


To serve warm:
2 tbs butterscotch syrup
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup cream soda
1 cup club soda
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
Dash salt

Heat butterscotch, butter, and spices in a saucepan until melted.  Stir in cream and club soda.  Serve immediately. (By serving immediately, you get that nice stack of foam as pictured above)

To serve cold:
2 tbs butterscotch syrup
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup cream soda
1 ¼ cups club soda
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
Smidgen salt

Heat butterscotch, butter, and spices in a saucepan until melted.  Stir in cream soda.  Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.   Carefully add club soda, stirring gently until it is incorporated.  Chill for at least another 5 minutes before serving.
The main ingredients.  The stuff in the measuring cup is my homemade butterscotch
Melting the butter and butterscotch.
After adding the cream soda
Delicious chilled butterbeer
This recipe is perfect for me.  It fulfills all of my requirements.  This butterbeer, served warm, is sweet like butterscotch, but not sickeningly sweet, and has a small hint of nutmeg.  It warms you to the core as it goes down, and leaves your lips a little buttery as you sip.  Great for a stormy day.

And you know what? I like it even better chilled!  The flavors blend together spectacularly!  It is a sweet, but still refreshing drink, that still has the warm buttery flavor that seems to warm you up even without higher temperatures.  It has just the right amount of fizz.  I could definitely see myself nursing a butterbeer that Fred and George had nicked from Hogsmeade after a triumphant Quidditch match.

Just FYI, when you chill the butterbeer, some of the butterscotch tries to harden with some butter, and it rises to the top like thick cream.  When you stir in the club soda, it will all incorporate fine.  Don’t skim it off or anything.  That’s part of the delicious buttery flavor!
The goopy stuff that forms when it chills. Just stir it back in.
I’m glad I finally got to try butterbeer, and this recipe perfectly fulfilled my expectations.  As I endeavor to reread the entire Harry Potter series in the coming week before the show’s opening, I will be able to easily imagine its delicious flavor each time the characters take a sip.  It’s HP fan heaven, if there ever was one.

Special thanks to my madre for taste testing!  She helped me get it just right.

P.S. The winner of the poll was Peppermint Toads!  That falls into Anna's territory.  Keep an eye out for that post next week!

Sugar Quills

Yesterday I underwent the most difficult, risky, and complex cooking experiment I have ever worked on for this blog.  I had actually been looking forward to making this particular Harry Potter food above anything else we have been planning, and while it was a fun project, man was it a challenge!  These troublesome treats are called sugar quills, and attempting to make them is not for the faint of heart.  Proceed with caution.

Sugar quills are described in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as “fragile sugar-spun quills” (Rowling 197), “‘which you can suck in class and just look like you’re thinking about what to write next’” (77).  Hermione seems to have a preference for sugar quills, probably because she's always got a quill in her hand to do her homework.

I was impressed to see that sugar quills are so realistically quill-like that they pass for a real quill in class.  I thought, “What is this ‘spun sugar’ and what makes it pass so well as a feather?”  I immediately looked up “spun sugar,” because I hadn’t the foggiest idea what that meant.  Now I know, and I’m happy to educate you as well.

Spun sugar is caramelized sugar (a sugar solution boiled at a high temperature until it browns) boiled to the “hard crack” stage in candy-making, and that forms long, spindly strings when allowed to drip off the bottom of a fork or whisk.  Chefs often use spun sugar as a decoration to create cages for cakes or ice cream in gourmet restaurants.

In case you’re unfamiliar with candy-making, the first thing you should know is that it is a huge pain to do.  Candy has to be caught at just the right temperature, lest it be too soft or burn.  You need a candy thermometer to do it properly. Candy thermometers look like this:

I knew what a huge endeavor I was taking on when I decided to make sugar quills.  I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off.  But every time I looked up “sugar quills” online, I only saw pictures like this:

These molded feathers don’t fit Rowling’s description at all.  They aren’t fragile, and they’re certainly not spun sugar.  I was determined, therefore, to be the first to do sugar quills properly.  Fortunately for me, I succeeded.

These quills have spindly little strings that make up the fine texture of feathers, while still being lovely, caramel-flavored hard candy that dissolves in your mouth as you suck on them.  Plus, they have utility in the classroom -- you can have your candy pen and eat it too!

Without further ado, here’s how I did it:

Sugar Quills

Part 1: The stick molds
Aluminum Foil
Inside tube of several ball-point pens (the ink/writing tip)
Cooking spray

I determined to make sugar quills that could actually be used as writing utensils in class, which is why I use the ball-point pens.  This isn’t perfectly accurate in the Harry Potter universe, since they would dip their quills in inkwells (ball-point pens are 100% Muggle).  But it’s as close as I could get.  The only problem is, the ink tube of the pens weren’t very long – certainly not long enough to write with and support a spun-sugar feather at the same time.  So I had to extend them.

Using small strips of foil, I set the ink stick of a pen into the middle of the foil.  Then I folded it over like a taco and created a crease on both sides of the foil.  

Then I removed the ink tube from the foil and bend back the foil along the creases to open up the hollow area where the ink tube had been.  This created a long, thin mold roughly the size of the ink tube.  

I repeated this step until I had made about 8 molds.  I then laid these molds carefully along a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and sprayed them with cooking spray.  Then I placed the ends of the ink tubes into the molds (so that they overlapped by about 1 ½ - 2 inches). 

Part 2: Caramelizing Sugar

½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water

Place sugar in the bottom of a small saucepan.  Pour water on top.  Place over high heat and allow to boil.  DO NOT STIR.  Stirring causes the sugar to form crystals, which will completely ruin any spun sugar attempts.  As the sugar solution boils, it will stir itself.

When the mixture has come to a boil, place the candy thermometer in the solution, careful to clip it onto the rim of the pan so that the bottom of the thermometer is in the solution but does not touch the bottom of the pan. 

Allow the solution to boil until it reaches the “Hard Crack” candy stage, which is about 305 degrees Fahrenheit (it will take about 5 minutes).  The solution will have a light caramel color, like this:

I actually broke my candy thermometer at one point (those dang things are highly breakable.  Be kind to your candy thermometer!), so I judged my caramelized sugar based on the color, which worked fine.  The picture above is the perfect color.  Any lighter, and it would be at the “soft crack” stage, and any darker, and it would start to get a slight burnt flavor. 

As soon as the sugar solution reaches the proper temperature/color, remove from heat.  Allow bubbles to settle for 30 seconds to a minute before using. 

Part 3: Pouring the Caramelized sugar into the molds

Using a small gravy ladle, quickly pour the sugar syrup into the candy molds.  Quickly is the key word.  The sugar hardens fast, and you don’t want to risk reheating your syrup and causing it to burn or crystallize, so you have to try to do it all in one go.  Don’t worry if the sugar goops over the edges of the molds – you can break that off later. 

Once you’ve filled all your molds (or hopefully filled them, as long as your sugar didn’t harden or crystallize before you finished), check to make sure that the ink tubes are completely enveloped in sugar – they need to have a strong base.  If you have any remaining workable sugar, pour that over the holes and weak spots in your molds. 

Immediately soak your pot in hot, soapy water.  The hardened sugar in the pot will quickly dissolve and make for easy cleaning.

Once the sugar in the molds is hardened, peel the foil away from the sugar sticks very carefully, so as not to break them.  Make sure that if any bit of foil sticks, you pull it off.  You now have your quill bases. Gently set aside.

Note: A lot of these sticks will probably break.  Make more than your target amount of quills, because about half will undoubtedly be ruined at some point.
My pile of broken quill bases. They make great suckers!

Part 4: Spinning sugar

½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 forks

Make sure your saucepan is all cleaned out and there is no sugar residue.  Repeat Part 2.  While the sugar is boiling, prop your quill bases up so that the sugary part hangs over open air.  Something like this works:

Propped up by the edge of a cookie sheet, anchored by a roll of aluminum foil
When the sugar is caramelized and removed from heat, take two forks and place them back to back.  Dip the prongs of the forks into the syrup and lift them high.  After the syrup has dripped off the ends a few times, it should form long thin strings, like a spider web.  If it doesn’t quite work, your mixture either didn’t reach the hard crack stage or it needs a couple more seconds to settle.

I used rubber bands to fix my forks so that they were back to back.  That way I didn’t have to worry about them slipping all the time.

Take the sugar over to your suspended quill bases.  Dip the forks into the syrup again, allow to drip for a couple seconds (this keeps from getting too many big globs of sugar all over your quills – some globs are inevitable, but if you let it drip, hold your forks high over your head, and work fast, you prevent the worst of it), then hold the forks high over your quill bases and flick your wrist back and forth as fast as you can.  The syrup dripping from the fork will immediately form near-invisible strings, which will fall over the quill bases. Continue to do this until your sugar hardens (be sure that you still don’t stir it around when you’re doing this – crystallization is a pain!). 
Crystallized sugar
Confused?  Check out this page for detailed instructions on spinning sugar and a video of someone doing it.  You can also look up "spinning sugar" on YouTube.

Note: Be careful not to burn yourself!!  This sugar is 300 degrees F, and it will stick to your skin and keep burning you until you get it off!  If this happens, be sure to immediately run the burnt spot over cold water for a minute or until it stops burning, and remove the sugar.  I actually managed to keep myself burn free through this entire endeavor, surprisingly enough, because I kept my body far away from where I was shaking the sugar.  It can be done!  The only stuff that will burn you is the big drips, not the thin strings.

You should have a large pile of sugar string over your quill bases.  Gently squish it down a little and, using scissors, cut the sugar web in between the middle of each base.  Then one at a time, very gently, wrap the sugar webs around each quill base.  You should get something resembling a thin stick of cotton candy.  Carefully squish the web around the base so that it’s flat.  Then you can shape the edges of the sugar web using your fingers and scissors to make it look like a feather.  Voila!

I hadn't shaped these when I took this pic, so they look more like cotton candy.  You just squish them flat from here and gently pinch/cut the edges to make them more feather-like.
Note: You probably will not be able to shake enough sugar over your quill bases to make them look feathery before your syrup hardens.  Count on doing two or more batches of caramelized sugar for spinning.

How big your feather looks depends on how far apart you set your bases.  The wider apart they are, the bigger the feather.  I found that the ideal width was about 4 inches apart for a practical-looking feather.  I did some much farther apart, and dyed green, and though they looked cool, they had a hard time staying up straight.

Warning: Plan to eat your sugar quills soon after you make them (in the next day or so).  I set mine aside in a sealed plastic bag for several days, and when I checked on them today all the water had evaporated out of the sugar, so each carefully spun quill crumbled to dust.  *sigh*  Lesson learned.

And that, my friends, is spun sugar.  It was a huge pain.  It took hours of caramelizing batch after batch of sugar syrup.  I had to guess and check many times before I finally figured out how to do it, and even then my quills don’t look nearly as cool as a professional cook could do.   I definitely have no inclination to undertake this project again anytime soon.  BUT I am glad I did it.  This way I can tell the world, “This is what sugar quills are supposed to look like.”