Category Archives: Candy

Chocolate Covered Apricots Dusted with Ancho Chili

I’ve been meaning to post this for weeks . . . This is one of those super simple recipes that only has a few ingredients and doesn’t require baking!  Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free.  What’s not to love?

From the Backstage Baker:  “We had so many cakes and cookies for Jitney’s opening, that I was trying to think of something else to do for WINE AND UNWIND. I took dried apricots and dipped them in dark chocolate, sprinkling the final product with ground Ancho Chile powder for a little heat. They were yummy and a big hit with the cast and crew. Try them for your next party.”

It almost seems silly to put this recipe format, but for those of you (me!) that are a little anal retentive, here it is:

20 Turkish-style apricots
2 40z bar of dark chocolate (65% cacao and up)
Ancho chili powder


Place a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet.

Chop chocolate bars into small pieces, place in microwave-safe bowl.  Melt carefully in 30 second bursts, stirring between each burst.  When it is almost (but not quite!) all melted, remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

Dip apricots halfway into chocolate and put on wax paper.

When chocolate has hardened slightly, shake a bit of ancho chili powder on each apricot.

Pour yourself a glass of a bold red (the Jitney cast enjoyed a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon) and savor the flavors.


Chocolate Stout Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate Stout PB cups

Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday — Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups with Stout!! This is one of those three-ingredient wonders — you know, those curious little recipes that crop up on Facebook from time to time and sound way too easy to work.

I made this test batch because I wanted try them out before I bring them to Hamilton  for Sunday’s Wine and Unwind.   If I do say so myself, they are pretty freaking good.  (My 13 year year old thinks they need more textural refuge, though, and suggests I use crunchy peanut butter next time.  It’s a fair critique.  I’ll try that and let you what the cast thinks.)

Oh, and one other little backstage-related detail — the peanut butter I used was “The Bees Knees” from Peanut Butter & Co.  The partner of one of the producers of Kinky Boots owns the company, and sometimes he sends a case or two to the theater for everyone to enjoy.  So I did.

Peanut Butter

Chocolate Stout Peanut Butter Cups


3 cups of dark chocolate chips (60% cocoa content)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup stout or porter (espresso or smoked flavor would be divine!)


1.  Line mini-muffin tins with mini-muffin paper cups.  (should need about 24)

2.  Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until melted.

3.  Spoon melted chocolate into muffin cups (about 2/3rds full).  Don’t use all the chocolate, as you will need a little bit to smooth off the tops after you’ve piped in your peanut butter.

4.  In a small bowl, beat peanut butter and stout until well combined.  Scrape peanut butter into a Ziploc bag, and cut off one corner to use as a make-shift pastry bag.  Insert cut-off corner into chocolate and squeeze out a good sized dollop.

5.  Top each cup with a small amount of the remaining chocolate to cover the peanut butter and create a smooth top.

6.  Chill until set, about 10 minutes.

I will confess that I used a couple of specialized tools to make this easier and the candies sleeker — a mini-cookie dough scoop really helps get the melted chocolate into the cups cleanly, and a pastry bag makes the peanut butter look very professional.  But really, a spoon and a Ziploc work just fine.  And how can you go wrong with these three ingredients?

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

PB bars

I just got back from a delightful 24 hours in Red Bank, New Jersey, where James is stage managing Moliere’s “School For Wives” at the Two River Theater.

Two River

The show runs through October 5 and I highly recommend getting out there if you can —  Robert Stanton is wonderful as always (I worked with him on my very first Equity show, A.R. Gurney’s “A Cheever Evening” back at the old Playwright’s Horizon theater.  He is one funny, funny man and a very fine actor!)   The rest of the cast is terrific too, director Mark Wing-Davy is inventive and irreverent as always, and the production values at this theater are truly first-rate.  (Plus, the theater is within walking distance of the train and Jon Bon Jovi’s community restaurant Soul Kitchen.)

Not to arrive empty-handed (yes, I always bring treats to every show I see) I brought a batch of these No-Bake Peanut Butter bars, having found the recipe on Facebook.  (No idea other than that who came up with this.)  These are so delicious and more-ish that I just had to get them out of the house.  The cast and crew seemed to agree, since they were all gone by the end of the show.

CArson Elrod
Carson Elrod, who plays Alain,  enjoying a pre-show sugar fix.

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars


1 cup salted butter (melted)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter — natural, non-sweetened kind is best
1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips


1. Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
2. Pour peanut butter mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.
3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1-2 minutes in 30 second increments until almost melted. Stir chocolate and pour over the peanut butter mixture. Spread chocolate with a spatula. To even out chocolate, tap pan on the counter.
4. Refrigerate bars for one hour. Cut while bars are still cool. Enjoy


Julia Kulaya Wardrobe
Julia Kulaya, Wardrobe

Breakaways — Not (Breaking) Bad at All!


“All the Way” is almost two weeks into the preview part of putting together a Broadway show, having begun its previews on February 11. James always says that previews are often harder than technical rehearsals.  During tech, the hours are long but you go through the show in order from beginning to end. During previews, you are onstage with sets and lights, and these rehearsals jump throughout the show to focus on the problem parts, so cast and crew are kept on their toes.   They are in for almost-daily rehearsals from 12:30pm – 5:30pm, then crew and stage managers are called at 6:30pm for an 8:00pm show,  then the production staff and stage managers finish the evening with a production meeting. Stage managers are in for more than 12 hours a day.

It rather goes without saying that James did not have the luxury of baking something too elaborate or time-consuming for their first Wine and Unwind at the theater.   So, he turned to a tried and true PTA bake sale recipe I’d sent him a while ago, adding his own distinctive fillip with chopped almonds and flaked sea salt on top of the chocolate. They were a hit with the wine. (James also thought they were appropriate since “All the Way” stars Bryan Cranston,  star of the TV series “BREAKING BAD”!)

Salty Chocolate Breakaways

1 sleeve Saltine crackers
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 bag Nestle’s chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon Flaked Sea Salk
1/4 finely chopped almonds

1.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then place Saltine crackers on foil.
Melt butter in microwave, then add sugar to butter and stir. Evenly spread the butter and sugar mixture on crackers and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes.

2.  Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over entire cookie sheet. Return it to the oven just long enough to melt the morsels.

3.  Remove from oven and spread chocolate evenly. Sprinkle on salt and almonds and then place in refrigerator to cool. When cool, peel back the foil and break into pieces.


Who knew that a Cotes du Ventoux would pair so beautifully with saltines, butter, sugar and chocolate?


Production Stage Manager Matthew Farrell, Production Assistant Sarah Perlin, Cast Member Robert Petkoff, Follow Spot Operator John Kelly.

Salted Chocolate Caramels

Salted Chocolate CaramelsOkay, I’ve hijacked this blog once again to post a recipe of my own.  Well, not exactly my own, it actually comes from the now sadly defunct “Gourmet Magazine,” circa 2006.  But this is my go-to Christmas gift.  Some people bake scads of holiday cookies and while I’ve done that too, it’s these Salted Chocolate Caramels that people actually remember and ask for, year after year.  So here’s the recipe.

One important note:  Candy thermometers and specific temperatures can make a recipe sound onerous and difficult, but the secret to this one is to read it all the way through each time you make it.  I know, you’re ALWAYS supposed to read recipes all the way through, but I’m lazy and don’t.  Trust me when I tell you I’ve thrown out just about as many batches as I’ve given away.  And really, it’s all because I forget to read through the recipe.  Just do it.  It’s really not that hard.  (The recipe, that is!)

Salted Chocolate Caramels
(from Gourmet Magazine, 2006)

2 cups heavy cream
10 1/2 oz fine-quality dark chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon
Vegetable oil for greasing

1.  Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.

2.  Bring cream just to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.

3.  Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot (I like to use a ceramic-coated, Le Creuset-style Dutch oven) over moderate heat,  stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, uncovered, without stirring but gently swirling pan occasionally, until sugar is deep golden, about 10 minutes.

4.  Carefully pour in chocolate mixture (be warned:  mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 255°F on thermometer, about 15 minutes.  Be precise about this temperature — anything above 255 will give you an almost solid, hard candy.

5.  Add butter, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of saucepan or else your finished product will have a burnt flavor to it.)

6. Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.

7.  Carefully invert caramel onto a clean, dry cutting board, then peel off parchment. Turn caramel salt side up.

8.  Lightly oil blade of a large heavy knife and cut into 1-inch squares.

Yield: 64 caramels

More notes: Additional sea salt can be pressed onto caramels after cutting.

Caramels keep, layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks or they can be wrapped in 4-inch squares of wax paper; twist ends to close.

Check out my pal Miranda Levenstein’s recipe blog here — she has this recipe posted there too, but with how-to pictures.

Meringue, meringue!!

The Skriker, March 1996

The first show James and I worked on together was a crazy complicated piece by Caryl Churchill called “The Skriker.”  To this day I’m not really sure if it was a play or a musical or even what it was all about.   But it was memorably dramatic and edgy and out there. It started with the unforgettable entrance of Jayne Atkinson (the Skriker) breaking through the stage floor, encased in a rubber cocoon and sitting on an armchair covered in real live grass.  She sat on top of the 12’ scissor lift and recited a 4 ½ page monologue that started with:  “Heard her boast beef a roast beef eater, daughter could spin span spick and spun the lowest form of wheat straw into gold, raw into roar, golden lion and lyonesse under the sea, her in dungeonesse under the castle, spindling swindling dwindling Gwendolyn wheedling.”   WTF??

Directed by the intrepid Mark Wing-Davey, and presented in the Public Theater’s Newman Theater, it was a wild and woolly evening of theater.  Nothing was out of bounds. Mark set the tone immediately and our rehearsals began with a leisurely game of koosh ball and ended up including field trips to the Bronx Zoo and Bellevue.  James’ rehearsal reports (which for some reason I still have) are full of delightful little oddities:

 “Does anyone have a newborn baby we could use in rehearsal for a few hours?  We’ll take good care of it, but the child shouldn’t be sensitive to being called a slitty-eyed changeling.”


“In the bar scene, the Skriker wants a scotch and soda (don’t we all.)  We’ll need an appropriate glass, ice and spoon.”


“The Fair Fairy will only vomit vegetable soup.  (Actor is vegetarian.)”

As I recall, there was a lot of food (and mud and water and slime!) used throughout the show.  One rehearsal report noted that: “For the Glamour Banquet Scene, Mark wants to use brains (from British cows, of course!), eyeballs (real or fake – you decide), edible ladyfingers and edible meringues.”

Oh that Glamour Banquet!  I remember it vividly.  The banquet table was laid directly on a large section of the stage deck that lowered so we could quickly we dress it in the trap with the above-mentioned brains, etc., and then raise it up to table height.    The number itself was deafening, full of subwoofer and strobe, and the lyrics went something like this:

Meringue meringue!  
Meringue meringue!  
Meringue utang!  
Welcome homesick
drink drank drunk
avocado and prawn cockfight cockup cocksuck
red wine or white wash
champagne the pain is a sham pain the pain is a sham
fillet steak fill it up stakes in your heart
meringue  utang
black coffee fe fi fo fum

Again, not to sound like a complete Philistine, but WTF does any of this mean??  I still haven’t a clue.

But, I think you can see where this is going – a recipe for meringues!  Meringues were, in fact, my first introduction to the Backstage Baker.  James made them all the time for the Skriker cast and crew, and took the mystery out of meringue for me.  He taught me that meringues are not scary at all, and actually quite simple to make.  Just make sure your beaters are scrupulously clean and don’t try to make these on a humid rainy day.

The recipe below got a lot of use over the recent Christmas holidays.   But you can easily enjoy these year round.   Sometimes I’ll switch out the candy canes and substitute mini-chocolate chips.  But these are also perfectly good without any additions at all.   Even better, they’re eminently suitable for the gluten-free!  (Soon we’ll post a recipe that uses all those egg yolks you’ll be left with.)

Peppermint Meringues


2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 peppermint candy canes, crushed


1.    Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  (I like to use a pastry bag or just a zip-top bag with a corner cut out to squeeze the mixture through.)  Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy (if using) over the cookies.  If using mini-chocolate chips, gently fold them into the mixture before spooning onto cookie sheet.
2.    Bake for 1 1/2 hours in preheated oven. Meringues should be completely dry on the inside.   (You’ll just have to eat one to test this.)  Do not allow them to brown. When they seem done, turn off oven. Keeping oven door ajar, let meringues sit in the oven until completely cool. Loosen from foil with metal spatula. Store loosely covered in cool dry place for up to 2 months.