July 15, 2013

Kitchen Fails

It was one of those weeks for me.

The plan was to make some beautiful French macarons for a gift and put together a delicious garden-centered post for you.  It was also a busy, hot week and I couldn't get a decent night's sleep more than once.  The French macarons were a complete disaster!  Today's post started with the raw materials shown above and the result gave me a stomach ache!

What to do?  There was definitely a moment when I spilled melted chocolate on the floor and then stuck my bare foot in it.  I willed myself not to cry.  I find that the best remedy for kitchen failure is to turn to the tried and true. For me, that's almond toffee and caramels.  Thankfully, these each make great gifts and are good tricks to keep in my back pocket.

So, for those of you who don't like to cook because of the epic failures, let me give you a bit of advice and encouragement.  Practice something you love to eat until you get it just right.  It will eventually come easily to you and then you can take solace in these skills when you are trying not to shed tears into meringue.

In the case that you would like to try my old stand-by recipe for success, I decided to share my family's English Toffee recipe.  I've adapted it to be corn-free (because of those darn food politics of mine) and can be made with all high-quality, organic ingredients.  When I had my little candy business, that is how I made candy for my customers.  If you have a wedding (congrats!), I will make candy for you then, too.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 T. brown rice syrup
  • 3 T. water
  • 1/4 t. cream of tarter
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 oz. chocolate, melted
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped fine

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nice, flat piece of foil.  Set aside near stovetop.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.  Set heat to medium-high and gently stir together as the butter melts.  Once the butter is melted and the mixture becomes cohesive, stop stirring.  This is surprisingly important - if you over-stir, the sugar may seize and there's no saving the candy.

Watch for the color to start changing from yellow to brown tones.  Once you see some change, stir every few seconds using a broad, folding motion.  Allow color to deepen to a tawny golden brown, like a Golden Retriever.  I learned that tip from a friend of my mother's and it works every time.  And you don't need to clip in a thermometer.

Once the proper color is acquired, turn of heat, grasp handles with pot holders (everything is dangerously hot at this point), and pour directly onto the prepared sheet.  Allow to cool and harden.  Once the surface is hard and shiny, spread chocolate over it and sprinkle on the nuts.  A little extra salt sprinkled on top might be nice, too. Especially fancy salt.

Allow chocolate to set.  The fridge will work for this, because you are not worried about keeping the temper of the chocolate.  Break finished toffee into small pieces and share with friends.

*I have made toffee with chocolate and no nuts, or vice versa.  If you go with nuts and no chocolate, chop them more coarsely and add them directly to the candy mixture just before pouring onto the baking sheet to set.  I frequently use pecans instead of almonds, as pecans are my favorite.

**I am also a fan of pepitas, cinnamon, and chile sprinkled over the chocolate.

***If you'd rather make the caramels above, you're in luck.

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