Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

December 02, 2010

Day Four of Holiday Baking: Making Fudge is Kind of Like Making Soap

This is the fourth post of five in a series I'm calling Five Days of Holiday Baking. I'm taking a break from posting about soap making classes and instead sharing my favorite holiday dessert recipes. You'll love both of the fudge recipes I'm posting. They are both incredibly delicious: one is my personal favorite (super easy and versatile) and the other is my Mom's long-standing favorite that her mom (Grandma June) made for countless decades.

My fudge recipe (and my Mom's too) is a bit like make cold process soap. You can pick your additives (nuts, mini marshmallows, dried fruit, etc.) and change around the base recipe as much as you'd like. Unlike soapmaking, no need to run it through the lye calculator!
Here's a trick - try making two recipe of fudge, for example one butterscotch and one chocolate, then pour simultaneously into your pan (reminding you of soap yet?) and gently swirl (although it will be quite thick at this point.

Marla's Super Easy Fudge Recipe

3 cups baking chips (chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, white chocolate, or even mix them)

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup "additives" (nuts, mini marshmallows, dried cranberries, M&Ms, etc.)

Line a 8 x8 pan with foil and butter it lightly. Melt chips, salt and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan over low heat. Stir continuously. When chips are melted, remove from heat and add vanilla and any additives. Stir quickly to incorporate them well. The fudge will begin to thicken as starts to cool. Pour into foil-lined pan.

Let cool at room temperature for one to two hours. Cut immediately into squares and wrap in foil. Store in air-tight containers.

Mom's Favorite Fudge (Makes 3 lbs.)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips (or peanut butter/white choc./butterscotch!)
1 7 oz. jar marshmellow creme
1 cup chopped nuts (or other additives!)
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, margarine, and milk in heavy 2 1/2 quart saucepan, bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium hear or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat, stir in chocolate chips until melted.

Add marshmallow creme, nuts, and vanilla, beat until well blended. Pour into greased 13x9 pan.
Cool at room temperature. Cut and wrap in foil.
Hope you are enjoying the recipes! Feel free to leave a comment with your favorites!

December 01, 2010

Day Three of Holiday Baking: Bet-You-Can't-Have-Just-One Creamy Caramels

Today is day three of Five Days of Holiday Baking Recipes. Yesterday I shared Rose Levy Beranbaum's Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee recipe. I'm sharing a wonderful and easy recipe for Creamy Caramels that I know you will love. These homemade caramels are highly addictive. Bet you can't have just one!

Creamy Caramels

1 cup sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Make sure you have a candy thermometer on hand.

Line an 8-inch square pan with foil. Butter the foil and set aside.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan. bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Boil slowly for four minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir constantly, and cook until candy thermometer reads 238 degrees F (soft ball stage).

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Cool. Remove from pan and cut into 1-inch squares. Wrap individually in waxed paper and twist ends.

Makes about 60-70 pieces.

November 30, 2010

Day Two of Five Days of Holiday Baking Recipes: Mouth-watering Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee

Today is day two of Five Days of Holiday Baking Recipes. Yesterday I shared my Top Secret Holiday Cookie recipe. Fasten your seatbelts, because today's favorite comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum. I "discovered" Rose back in the 1990s when this recipe was featured in The Boston Globe Magazine. At first I was a bit overwhelmed just glancing at the recipe - I was comfortable with baking, but had never made English toffee. If this recipe looks intimidating to you, just try it once. Compared to soap recipes, it really is a breeze!

Why is this recipe in my Five Days of Holiday Baking Recipes? Well it isn't technically baking, but this toffee makes a fabulous addition to holiday treats. Your friends and family will be impressed - this toffee looks and tastes uber gourmet. The brown sugar gives a beautiful mahogany color to the toffee and the baking soda ensures that it is brittle and not sticky.

Pick a cold, dry day and make sure you have a candy thermometer on hand.

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee

(Makes about 1 lb. or 10, 5 inch pieces)
2 cups blanched, sliced almonds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. semisweet chocolate

Adjust the oven racks so they divide the oven into thirds. Set oven at 350 degrees F.

Have on hand a nonstick or buttered cookie sheet and a candy thermometer.

Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and bake them, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown. Let cool completely.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the machine in on-off motions until the almonds aer finely chopped but not powdery.
Sprinkle half the nuts over a 7 x 10 inch area on the cookie sheet. Set it near the burners; you'll need to grab it quickly. Have the vanilla and baking soda nearby as well.

In a heavy-based saucepan, preferably nonstick, combine the brown sugar, water and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constatly, until the mixture reaches 285 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This is the soft crack stage (a little of the mixture dropped into a bowl of ice water will separate into threads that are hard but not brittle.)

Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla and baking soda. Pour the toffee mixture carefully and evenly onto the nuts, keeping within the 7 x 10 rectangle.

Working quickly, scatter the chocolate onto the toffee. Press the chocolate lightly with your fingertips so it starts melting.

Let it sit for five minutes. The chocolate will be soft enough to spread with a metal spatula or butter knife. Make an even layer over the surface of the toffee. Dust the chocolate with the remaining almonds. Leave the toffee to cool completely, then break it into irregular pieces. You can store the toffee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

November 29, 2010

Five Days of Holiday Baking Recipes: First Up, My Top Secret Cookies..."Hey, Martha, Check These Out!"

I've decided to take a few days off from writing about soap making classes and instead share with you some of my favorite holiday recipes. Family and close friends know that I'm an avid baker, but I rarely have time to indulge in whipping up culinary delights - now it's whipping up cosmetic formulations. But in the early 1990s I dreamed of continuing my education at Johnson & Wales culinary school in Rhode Island. My dream was to start a biscotti baking company. I was obsessed with biscotti back then. But thankfully a few years later I made a solitary batch of soap that would forever change my a remarkable way. I digress.

My gift to you this holiday season are five days of recipes - not just any recipes but ones that have become an annual tradition for my daughter (now 16) and me. I first started making these in 1990, just four years before she was born.
Each year I take photos of us baking together. And I cherish these recipes I'm about to share.

Why this Top Secret Holiday Cookies Recipe? First, I've never received so many compliments and rave reviews on a cookie recipe in my life. Honestly. You'll see. Second, they store in an airtight container for up to a month (which is important if you are shipping them to friends and family overseas). They also freeze well. Lastly, a recipe doesn't get much easier than this.

My hope is that these recipes will be near and dear to your heart. Special thanks to Grandma June and Grandma Zinetta Smith, who both passed along their love for baking to me. Thank you for the childhood memories of watching in awe as you baked with joy and love. I will never forget those majical moments. And to you, dear readers, remember to add an extra pinch of joy and love to all your recipes.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sweetest Holiday Wishes,
Marla Bosworth

Top Secret Holiday Cookies Recipe

by Marla Bosworth

Dough Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

3 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup sour cream

Dash of love
Dash of joy

Frosting Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 lb. confectionery sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

4 Tbsp. milk

Sprinkling of peace and kindness

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla.
In separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Alternately add half the dry ingredients, then half the sour cream. Repeat until dry ingredients and sour cream are incorporated into the mix. Place dough in plastic wrap or plastic bag and refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably overnight.

Roll dough onto floured board until 1/4 inch thick. Roll it thinner than most cookies, as it will rise slightly during baking. Using your favorite cookie cutters, work your magic by using up all the dough!

Bake on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (I like the way they turn out this way). Bake 4-6 minutes. Keep a close eye on them, as they get dark around the edges easily. Cool and frost.

Frosting Instructions: Place softened (not melted) butter in bowl. Add confectionery sugar, vanilla and milk. Beat until smooth. Store unused frosting in airtight container. Although it decorates smoothly, it will harden within a few hours.

Decorating Tips: My daughter likes to divide the frosting into at least five bowls and color each one with food coloring. We use a variety of sprinkles (jimmies for you New Englanders), colored sugar, and candies.

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