Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Daring Kitchen: December challenge - Poach to Perfection!

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Blog Check in lines: Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Jenn, of Jenn Cuisine, and Jill have offered us up a great challenge this month.  I have never poached an egg before.... hmmmm, nor for that matter have I ever eaten one.  To be honest, it sounded a bit repulsive to me.  I tolerate eggs at best and undercooked whites make me want to gag.  Not a pretty picture! I just had it in my head that poached eggs equalled undercooked, runny whites.  Now I suppose that I could have made my poached eggs undercooked with runny whites, but I cooked the heck out of them so they turned out pretty darn good.

 I truly had it within my heart to not only do the poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, but also make my own English muffins.  But alas, here it is 6:50 p.m. and I just finished cooking up the eggs and now work on my blog to have this all in before deadline.  What do they say about the road being paved with good intentions???  Any way, I have an amazing sounding English muffin recipe that I WILL try my hand at.... some day.

Eggs Benedict

Serves 4

4 eggs (size is your choice)
2 English muffins
4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer)
Chives, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

For the hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 Tbl. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces º
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.
3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.
4. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.
6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using).
7. Keep the hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.
8. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.
9. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water.
10. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.
11. While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon and toast your English muffin.
12. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Have the Cake Challenge: Shortbread

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This month Nancy, of the Crafty Pepper, challenged us to make shortbread.   Shortbread is said to have originated in Scotland (Scottish Shortbread) then moving on to the United Kingdom becoming known as English Shortbread.  Both recipes reportedly produce similar results: a not too sweet, buttery cookie.  
Nancy shared with us a recipe from joepastry.com.  I twisted the recipe just a little bit by adding some raw sugar on top and adding dried cranberries.... yummers!

Shortbread Recipe
adapted from joepastry.com

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of either corn starch or rice flour
2/3 cup extra fine sugar (also known as caster sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes  (do not use margarine!!!)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons raw sugar (optional for topping)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional for topping)
Preheat your oven to 425. Combine the flour(s), sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir on low to blend. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and add the cold butter. Beat 2-3 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated and a dough comes together. It will range in texture from crumbly to smooth depending on your flour and the ambient temperature.

Line a 9" cake layer pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper, laying in the dough, covering it with another round of waxed paper, and pressing down on it with a second layer pan. Refrigerate the dough 30 minutes to firm it. Loosen the edges of the dough with a short knife, peel off the top layer of waxed paper, and turn the round out onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Peel off the second piece of waxed paper, top with cinnamon if desired.

Put the round into the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 300. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the round from the oven. Insert a 2" round cutter in the very center of the round (this will be removed later). Score the shortbread with a sharp knife, like spokes on a wheel, into 16 pieces. Use a cake tester or wooden skewer to poke regular holes in the shortbread (the holes are part decorative, part functional, as they allow gas and steam to escape, keeping the shortbread dense).

Return the shortbread to the oven and bake an additional 40 minutes until only very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on raw sugar. Cool 10 minutes then remove the round cutter (saving the cookie at the center for yourself) and slice the shortbread along the scores into blunt pie-shaped pieces. Cool completely, a minimum of 3 hours.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lasagne Soup

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I have been waiting for the perfect time to try this recipe...this was the day.  Too much snow and freezing cold temperatures - could that make for a better day to have soup? I found this recipe over on Paula Deen's web site but had to make several alterations to make it palatable for my picky family.
I'm just going to post the recipe with my adaptation but I encourage you to take a look at the original recipe, too.

Not Quite Lasagne Soup
adapted from Paula Deen

1 pound Jimmy Dean Italian Sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (Ok, this would have been perfect for me so I included it in recipe.  Had to leave out for hubby though)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
2 cans Swanson's Reduced Sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with basil and olive oil (regular petite diced tomatoes would work great too... I just love these!)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
4 ounces slightly broken egg noodles
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a Skillet combine sausage and onion; just before completely browning add the garlic, finish browning.  Drain off grease.
In a large sauce pan: stir in thyme, brown sugar, broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and salt (1/2 teaspoon if desired. I didn't think it needed it). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; add sausage mixture and reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes.
Add noodles, and simmer until noodles are tender. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
Preheat broiler.
Ladle soup into 8 to 10 ovenproof bowls. Evenly sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Broil soups, 6-inches from heat, 3 to 4 minutes, until cheese is browned and bubbly.

To make again I would make the following changes:
  I would add the parmesan along with the mozzarella... going lighter on the mozzarella.  I found that to much of the cheese sunk to the bottem and just became heavy.  I would cook the pasta separately from the soup and put the pasta into the bowls then add the soup.  Cooking it the above way my noodles drank up most of the liquid after setting for a bit.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Have the Cake Challenge for November: Orange Saffron Chiffon Cake with Cardamom

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This months Take the Cake Challenge was hosted by Shri... unfortunatly I was unable to locate where her blog was.  We were to try making the Perisian Love Cake. But I couldn't find all the ingredients (small towns tend to have that problem from time to time). So I looked up some chiffon cake recipes and found a few that used some similar ingredients to the Persian Love cake and did a bit of a combination of recipes. A result that produced a very delicious, airy, aeromatic cake. I would say it ended up a success!

I combined the Orange Saffron cake from Ifood.tv and the Orange Chiffon Cake at Joy of Baking Having never really tried my hand at such a massive addaptation of two recipes, the end result quite pleased me.

First I started with the Orange saffron cake ingredients combining:
3/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of 1 large orange (grated or curls, not large strips)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads soaked in 2 tbsp of milk
half of a of cinnamon stick freshly grated
freshly grated nutmeg using half of a fresh "nut"
5 fresh cardamom pods with seeds removed and crushed
1 tsp of vanilla
     Directions: In a saucepan on low heat, I combined the orange juice with the orange zest. I Added the saffron (along with the milk), the vanilla and the other spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom). Brought it to a gentle boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Removed from the heat and allowed it to cool.

Next I moved on to Orange Chiffon cake and did the following:
6 large eggs, separated plus 1 (30 grams) additional egg white
2 1/4 cups (225 grams) sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) superfine white (castor) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil or safflower oil
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Directions: Separate the eggs and place the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Cover with plastic wrap and bring them to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and have ready a 10 inch (25 cm) two piece tube pan (ungreased).
      In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, place the flour, sugar (minus 3 tablespoons (42 grams)), baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the egg yolks and oil, as well as the milk, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla extract and spice mixture that has been cooled. Beat about one minute or until smooth.
     In a separate bowl, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons (42 grams) of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. With a large rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold the egg whites into the batter just until blended (being careful not to deflate the batter).  
Pour the batter into the ungreased tube pan and bake for about 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (When lightly pressed the cake will spring back). Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven invert the pan and place on a bottle or flat surface so it is suspended over the counter. Let the cake cool completely before removing from pan (about 1 1/2 - 2 hours).
To remove the cake from the pan, run a long metal spatula around the inside of the tube pan and center core. Invert onto a greased wire rack.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch… or to be more exact; the misadventures in pie making

I know I should be far more creative than using pumpkin for my squash entry, but this is the first time I ever made a pumpkin pie from scratch.
I bought several sugar pumpkins last month and had to get them in the freezer.  Right away I knew I would put aside some of the pumpkin to make a pie for Thanksgiving.  There are several methods of storing sugar pumpkins but I prefer to steam them and then freeze.  While I'm sure there are some raw methods out there, most of the pumpkin recipes I have ask for cooked pumpkin so its easier for me to store them this way.  Now I have used the good old jack O’lantern pumpkins before and used the same method of storing but I heard that sugar pumpkins were the way to go so jumped on them when I finally saw some in our store.  Sugar pumpkins are much smaller and the flavor is more intense than what you would get from the typical Halloween jack O'lanterns (big pumpkins!) I've never had a problem using the big pumpkins in cooking before but I suggest you read up on the two differences before you make your own decision.
First you need to cut them and remove the seeds and pulp.  I then just put the pi002eces (flesh still on) into a glass baking pan, add a bit of water and cover with Saran Wrap.  Into the microwave it goes to steam for about ten minutes.  I take the pan out and let the pumpkin cool.  Now its easy to pull away from the flesh (no peeling needed!).  I do a bit of pureeing and place into ziplock bags putting in 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree into each bag.
004When using fresh pumpkin, you must drain the puree through some cheese cloth to eliminate the liquid.  All you want to have is the meat of the pumpkin.  I find it    easier to drain over a bowl and refrigerate over night.008
Use your favorite pastry for a 9-inch pie.  My mom swears by the Betty Crocker pastry and so we’ve used that recipe for years.  
Crust for 9-inch pie
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water     
Directions: Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).
Gather pastry into a ball. Shape into flattened round on lightly floured surface. Wrap flattened round of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 45 minutes or until dough is firm and cold, yet pliable. This allows the shortening to become slightly firm, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky. If refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.
Roll pastry, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate, or 3 inches larger than 10- or 11-inch tart pan. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.
Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pie plate. Fold and roll pastry under, even with plate; flute as desired. Continue with directions in pie recipe.
Pumpkin Filling for 9-inch pie
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon  salt        
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
                       1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) or use 1 1/2 cups prepared pumpkin
 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
      Directions: Heat oven to 425°F. In large bowl, beat eggs slightly with wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar, the cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ginger, cloves, pumpkin and milk.  Carefully pour pumpkin filling into pie plate. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake about 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Place pie on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
Pumpkin Patch                                                          Now all things considered, what should turn out is an amazing pumpkin pie.  Without a doubt ours did… however, the pie pan was placed on a stove top burner to cool.  We honestly thought the burner was off… really, we did.  My stove is possessed- really, it is possessed!  There is no other explanation as to why it is so evil.  The next morning we awoke to this…. Pumpkin jerky…. nasty.  Don’t recommend it to any one! LOL!!!                     

November Daring Bakers Challenge: Pasta Frolla

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The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

All things amazing can happen in a pasta frolla!  I've been browsing through the Daring Kitchen Forums and have been astounded by the variety of crostatas out there.  I'm telling you this... if you want amazing then you have to follow the amazing Daring Bakers!  Please don't begin to think that I put myself into this catagory of amazing bakers.  True, I am part of the challenge but I have a long way to go before I am in some of their playing fields!

Hubby hates fruit and I hate eating things by myself, especially if that is an entire crostata.  So I did what any other good wife does (sharing the wealth of fat around) and found this recipe for a chocolate crostata made by Alexander Guarnaschelli on the Food Network.  I wanted to be fair and do one of the pasta frolla options Simona gave us so I combined the two recipes.  It was rich and amazingly good... something the entire family ate :-)
My adorable grandsweetie and her momma checking things out!
Simona offered us to versions of the pasta frolla and I chose the first version.  I don't have a big enough food processor (Christmas and birthday hint family :-) ) but that's ok as I've gotten along this far without one and my doughs always come out fine.
Version 1 of pasta frolla
•1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
•1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
•a pinch of salt
•1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
•grated zest of half a lemon
•1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Making pasta frolla by hand:
1.Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.

2.Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.

3.Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
4.Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.

5.Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.

6.Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.

7.Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
Ganache for Filling:

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 orange, zested
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate (I had Hershey's brand on hand)
Ganache: In a small pot, over low heat, heat the cream with the cinnamon and orange zest. Use the pot of cream as the bottom of a double boiler and melt the chocolate, in a bowl, over the cream. When the chocolate has melted and the cream is heated, transfer the cream to a bowl and allow the chocolate and cream to cool slightly and separately. When somewhat warm, whisk the cream and the chocolate together to combine. Put the ganache in the refrigerator to cool.

 Putting it all together:

before baking
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush any excess flour off the dough before putting a spoonful of the cooled ganache in the center of each circle. Fold the sides up around it, making the chocolate the center of a small "money purse." Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving platter. Put any remaining ganache in the cavities of the crostada. Serve immediately with sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, if desired. Sift some powdered sugar over the crostata and garnish with a pinch of ground cloves, if desired.
Fresh from the oven!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Daring Cook Challenge: November is Souffle month

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I am running so behind these past months.  I don't quite know what my problem is.  I did put this up in the forum (a day late) but still wanted to post it on my blog.

Blog-checking lines: Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I have never eaten a souffle or made one before so I didn't quite know what to expect.  I'm hoping this recipe I found for a single souffle is indeed an actual souffle.  Based on what I've heard and read about souffles, I'm thinking this recipe is not that far off the mark (if indeed it is).  I believe it could have used another minute in the oven and it would have been perfect.  I was afraid to try putting it back into the oven once we had removed it.  Any way, it was absolutely delicious!  My hubby and I had a great time eating this delight before breakfast! 

Single serve chocolate souffle
1 6oz or 8 oz ramekin.  (mine was a 6 oz and I think a bigger one
 would have produced better results)
1 small piece of parchment paper (to make a collar on your ramekin)
1/4 cup (2oz) chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
1 Tb unsalted butter
2 Tb granulated white sugar
1 Tb all purpose flour
2 Tb Half&Half   (I didn't have half and half so I substituted
some Chocolate Mint Truffle Coffee Creamer... hey, it worked!)
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites

DirectionsPrepare your ramekin for your chocolate souffle for one. Grease the inside of the ramekin with the 1 TB butter (You will not use all the butter but save it) and coat with the 2 TB granulated sugar. (Sugar will stick to butter on the inside of the ramekin. You will have some left over at the bottom, again save it)
Create a collar around your ramekin by wrapping a piece of parchment paper around the outside and securing with a piece of tape. The parchment paper will support the souffle as it bakes,
allowing it to rise.
  Melt the chocolate with the leftover butter and half&half in the microwave for approximately 1 minute. Add the flour and egg yolk and stir to combine.
 In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the excess sugar from the ramekin and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
Add approximately 1/3 of egg whites to chocolate mixture to lighten the chocolate. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites with a spatula until combined. Do not over mix as this will deflate the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared souffle dish. Bake in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes to produce a souffle with a slightly molten center. If desired, cook longer. Serve immediately with your garnish of choice. Personally, I think a spoon is all the garnishment this delight needed!

Monday, November 8, 2010

homemade peanut butter cups

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We've been making homemade peanut butter cups for years now using a recipe that required graham cracker crumbs.  This is a recipe I recently came across that does not use the graham crackers and it was oh so creamy and good!  You do not need candy molds in order to make these, however, I find it easier to coat the molds with the chocolate rather than cupcake liners.  If you've never tried home made versions of your favorite candies but have always wanted to try, this is an easy beginners recipe!
Homeme Resees peanut butter cups     For the chocolate:
1 1/2 cups chopped semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate chips but the chocolate won't stay firm unless it is kept refrigerated.)
2 tablespoons peanut butter  (you may use natural peanut butter only add a pinch of salt)
     For the filling:
3/4 cup peanut butter (add a pinch of salt if using natural peanut butter)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine chocolate, peanut butter  in a double boiler and melt thoroughly. Put 2 teaspoons melted chocolate in each cupcake liner or  inside of each candy mold (this is using a mold that will give you the size of a regular Resees peanut butter cup. If using a smaller mold, use less chocolate). Carefully spread the chocolate with the back of a spoon at the bottom and only 1/4 of the way up the cupcake line, or all the way up a candy mold.  Repeat with all 12 liners, or molds. Place the chocolate-covered liners onto a plate in the fridge, or freezer to firm up. 
Prepare the filling: Stir together peanut butter, sugar, optional crumbs, and optional salt.
Divide the peanut butter paste into all 12 liners, about 1 heaping tablespoon per liner (less if using smaller molds) , pressing down gently to make sure the paste goes everywhere.
Top with 2 teaspoons melted chocolate, spreading carefully so that none of the peanut butter can be seen. The cups should firm up in fridge for at least one hour before eating.  If you are impatient, like I am, let them set in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Can be stored in fridge or freezer.
Yield: 12 candies

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Homemade Candy Corn

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After watching the latest episode of "Good Eats" hubby and I decided it was time for us to make some candy corn.  Due to copyright infringement, you will have to find the recipe for it here.  Here are some pictures that I took along the way of making.... enjoy!
First you need to carefully weigh out your ingredients
 After the liquids have reached the proper temperature, add the powder sugar and dry milk.
allow the mixture to cool and cut into thirds.  You will color one third yellow, one third orange and the last third leave white.
roll into 1/2 inch thick strips and press rolls together.  cut into pieces.
Pieces will likely get misshapen so you will have to help them out a bit.... Allow the pieces to firm up and then Voila, you have candy corn!