Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweets for My Sweets

I was only going to consume sugar on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To be safe I got rid of the cookies, fudge, candy, and the 20 pounds of English toffee that I made for the holidays. I've not been terribly bad the last few days, but I'm off work for heaven's sake, and the pantry is here. Yesterday I remembered one of my favorite things that I only allow myself once or twice a year--say during the holidays, or on the bleakest and coldest days of winter. The Butter marshmallows!!!

In the past I've had their vanilla marshmallows that I always buy for my grandsons who are hot cocoa lovers. I've had cinnamon, raspberry...good. But this year I broke out and bought the Gingerbread ones, and all I can say is throw a couple, or four of these lovelies into your cup and then pour in your cocoa. Truly as the scent of fresh warm gingerbread wafts up, you might moan. Specialty foods stores carry these, or they can be purchased from Butter Baked Goods website. I've made homemade marshmallow and they are not as good. This little bakery makes it completely unnecessary and silly to make your own. They have it down. Oh, and when I say your hot cocoa I do not mean some powdered junk you get from a package. Make it yourself - it's easy. The only hard thing here is for me to write down measurements as I rarely measure anything. Here goes...

Throw a tablespoon or two of Hershey's or better cocoa into a saucepan. Add sugar, honey, or Truvia to taste...if using sugar probably about 3 teaspoons. You must add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and I like sea salt. Add a couple of cups of milk, maybe spike it with some cream and whisk till very hot. Of course then from there you can spice it up with other things like a couple of pinches of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Kahlua, Grand Marnier, or almost any other booze or coffee is great in cocoa as well. Lactose intolerant? Do the same recipe with rice milk, soy, or whatever. But do get these marshmallows, or if in a pinch whipped cream on top is awfully good too. (And not the tub 'o wip, the real stuff.)

On to toffee. Why, you might say, would anyone need to make 20 pounds of toffee? My answer is, simply, the entire process if really fun.

You need: A very heavy bottomed medium saucepan. All Clad would probably be best, but mine are Cuisinart and work great. And a good candy thermometer. I don't care for the glass ones with the red ball, as they slide around during the boiling making it hard to stir. They also steam up and you can't read them, and then you are in trouble. Get a good metal candy thermometer with a large dial and a clip to hold it to the side of the pan.
1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/4 Cup water
2 cups raw almonds with skins
2 tsps. vanilla extract (real!)
1 tsp. salt
Fleur de sel
Melted chocolate (My friend Marianne feels this is not enough information...) O.K. I'll admit it, I am not ashamed - I use at least 32 oz. of good milk chocolate. Callebaut is good, but if you don't have use good old Nestle's milk chocolate chips. I've done semi-sweet, it's good, but I think the milk chocolate enhances and the semi-sweet overwhelms the toffee a bit...

NOTE: I like grey sea salt or Pink Himalayan sea salt for the finishing.
              I like Callebaut milk chocolate or Nestles milk chocolate chips (2 bags)

Marble slab, steel prep table, pizza pan, or big sheet pan that has been buttered

Toss your almonds in a food processor for a few seconds. They should be in various sized chips, not too large, not too small, but some will powder up too and that's O.K. as it makes a nice finish. Now set 1/2 cup of the chopped raw almonds by the stove so they are at the ready. In a 375 degree oven roast the other 1/2 cups chopped almonds for about 10-12 minutes for the finish.

Melt the four sticks of unsalted butter over medium heat in saucepan and add 1 cup white sugar and one cup brown sugar. Add 1/4 Cup water and stir in 1 Tbsp. corn syrup. When melted crank the heat to medium high. (My stove has number 6 before HIGH and I use 6, so it is pretty hot, but the heavy bottom on saucepan prevents it from scorching. You don't want to scorch the mixture. Tastes bad.) Have your vanilla and salt measured out next to your raw almonds so everything is at hand. Stir the bubbling candy mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until your candy thermometer reads 240 degrees. (This takes 10 minutes on my gas stove.) Immediately add your 1/2 raw almond chips. Keep stirring without splashing yourself till thermometer reads 300 degrees - mixture will be bubbling hard and should be golden brown and caramel-y looking. At exactly 300 degrees - don't go too soon or it won't reach "hard crack," turn off heat. Add the 2 tsp. vanilla and the 1 tsp. salt stirring it in. It will steam and bubble so don't be afraid. Now pour this mixture right out onto your buttered surface. I don't smooth it out because it's so hot it will spread on its own to about 1/2 inch thick. Let the mixture cool while you melt the chocolate. I do it in a plastic bowl in the microwave, but if you want to be proper use a double boiler. I hit it for 30 seconds and stir, repeat until melted. After the mixture has cooled for 10 or 15 minutes pour on the melted chocolate and spread to edges. Now take handfuls of your roasted almonds and sprinkle all over the chocolate till covered. Finally sprinkle the almonds with your Fleur de sel or Himalayan pink salt. Let cool completely. When cool I poke in random places to begin the cracking, breaking the candy into random size chunks. The toffee may be stored in canning jars, or a tin, or just a large freezer bag.

A warning...this stuff is completely addictive. My friends call it, appropriately, "Christmas Crack." Makes a great gift and is just satisfying as can be to make your own great candy!

1 comment:

Cody said...

My friend Marianne asked how much chocolate. Hmmm. Well I use at least 32 ounces. I'll admit it. I am not ashamed. If you don't have Callebaut milk chocolate, use good old Nestle's milk chocolate chips. If you want to use semi-sweet go ahead, but I think that it overwhelms, and that the milk chocolate enhances the toffee flavor.