Category Archives: Candy

Pecan Blondies

do they look like they have butter in them? because they do. lots.

You know that thing where you start doing a task a really stupid way, for instance deciding to break up whole toasted pecans with your fingers because you don’t feel like washing the cutting board and knife it would take to chop them properly, and you realize like 4 pecans in that you’ve made a serious error, but you think to yourself “there aren’t THAT many, this isn’t THAT stupid” so you go ahead and break up the rest of them with your fingers and then realize that it took you 15 minutes of your life because you were too stubborn to admit defeat EVEN TO YOURSELF?

Also,

You know that thing where you cook something really lovely at home, such as caramel made out of butter and brown sugar and it makes your hair smell like sugar for once instead of the steak you cooked in a pan that made your hair smell like charred meat,  or channa masala because you were standing over the pan while you made it and now your hair smells like leftovers, especially when you first step into the shower, but this time you like it because it’s nice and sugary instead of totally gross?

Furthermore,

You know that thing where you take a bite of something and know immediately that you have absolutely no control over how much of that thing you are about to eat and will also be totally consumed by thoughts of said thing during any of the times you manage NOT to eat it in the time it is still in your house, and then lament immediately when you do eat all of the thing and realize it’s out of your life forever?

All of those things happened to me while making these blondies.  These are dense, chewy, caramely, nutty morsels of buttery, fatty perfection.  They are what you want chocolate chip cookies to taste like.  They are what you hope shortbread will be.  They are absolutely what they serve during snack time before recess in Heaven.  Also, they take place in one pot and are really, really easy.  Hallelujah.

Pecan Blondies, from Fine Cooking

2 sticks (1 cup) of butter

3 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 egg yolks

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

healthy pinch of salt, plus more for sprinkling on top

1 1/2 cups of chopped, toasted pecans

Method:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, and butter or Pam a 9×13 baking dish.  In a pot on medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

the sugar has mostly dissolved, and i let mine boil for probably 5 minutes.

Then, let it boil gently for a couple minutes.  Take the caramel mixture off the heat and let it cool until you can touch the pot.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla, and mix it into the cooled caramel, taking care not to cook your eggs*, because that is gross.  Then, mix in the flour, salt and pecans until JUST combined, pouring it into the pan.  Sprinkle some kosher salt on top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Enjoy complete adulation from everyone you feed these to.

* A note on tempering eggs:  the official recipe wants you to make sure your eggs are room temperature before mixing them into the warm caramel mixture.  The reason is that if the caramel is too hot, it will cook the eggs instead of incorporate them into the batter, and that means your blondies will have scrambled eggs in them.  Foul.  To avoid this, try to make your eggs as close to the temperature of the caramel as possible.  If you, like me, never ever have room temperature eggs because you never plan anything food-related that far in advance, you can break your eggs and yolks into a bowl, and whisk them together over another bowl of hot water to warm them up a bit, though the process of whisking the eggs together in a warmer bowl will do that as well.  Then,  whisk the egg mixture into the caramel a little at a time, whisking the whole thing constantly until the eggs are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

– Cat

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Caramel Corn

this is probably the snack they have waiting for you right after you stroll into heaven.

Homemade caramel corn came into my life recently when Linda (good buddy and ex-roommate) made me some for a surprise.  I think she did this because she felt bad, thanks to the time she refused to make me cinnamon sugar biscotti and then I blogged about it.  Nagging works!  Every time I go to the movies, which is a normal amount, I say aloud “I wish that instead of stupid, gross, old, fake-chemical-butter popcorn, they had homemade caramel corn like at the Arclight in Los Angeles.”

The Arclight is a very fancy movie theater in LA, with a location in West Hollywood, which, if you attend a showing of anything on a Friday or a Saturday night, you’re more or less guaranteed to see someone famous.  The fun in that, really, is that mostly they are only kind of famous, such as that guy who played Billy in 6 Feet Under and was also in Clueless, or that girl from that movie where she played a cheerleader who got pregnant and then they robbed banks.  The game is trying to figure out exactly which Law and Order it was when that M list celebrity, eating Sno-caps THIS VERY MINUTE, that time they got murdered in an alley next to a kebab joint.  Or you could get a 20 pointer, like I did once, and see Natalie Portman and Devendra Banhart (they were dating then? Celebrities are weird), which looked exactly like if a very pretty, very normal girl wearing flip flops and shorts went around arm-in-arm with Jesus, if Jesus sometimes wears an afghan as a shirt and then accessorizes with 43 necklaces and leather sandals.  The point is, they sell pints of homemade caramel corn, access to which makes the $42 it costs for a movie ticket sort of worth it.

All that is why I had to make caramel corn for the blog.  So that your ass will be as fat as mine when you can’t stop eating it either.  Just imagine that butter is good for you.  Or that there’s no butter in this at all.  Or that you don’t care.  I guess it turns out that Kim Kardashian has a purpose on this earth after all, because fat asses are in style!

This recipe is pretty easy, provided you know how to cook popcorn on a stovetop (I had to Google it) and have a candy thermometer.

Caramel Corn

10-12 cups popped popcorn (I bought plain kernels and made them on the stovetop, because I didn’t want any gnarly stuff that most microwave popcorn has in it.  Get our your dutch oven or stock pot, heat 3 tbsp of vegetable oil on medium heat until shimmering.  Toss three kernels into the oil and when all three have popped, pour in all the kernels you want to make and put the top on the pot.  When the pops are a few seconds apart, shake the dutch oven and pour into a bowl.)

1/2 cup of butter, or 1 stick

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

2 tbsp water

1/4 salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

kosher salt

Method: Turn on the oven to 250 degrees, and pour all the popped popcorn into a deep roasting pan.  Put the pan in the hot oven while you make the caramel.  In a saucepan on medium-high heat, with a candy thermometer clipped to the side, melt the butter.  When the butter is melted, stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, water and salt.

it will look like this.

Whisk constantly until the mixture bubbles and reaches 250 degrees.  This takes maybe 15-20 minutes.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s not that fun.  Bring a magazine.

this is about 2/3 of the way through. my whisking hand was tired.

When it reaches 250 degrees, remove from the heat, mix in the baking soda and vanilla and whisk some more, the mixture will bubble up, turn creamy and lighter brown.

this is right before i turned it off and put in the baking soda and vanilla.

Pour the caramel all over the popcorn in the roasting pan, mixing well and sprinkling liberally with sea salt.

Bake the caramel corn in the oven, on 250 degrees, for 45 minutes, stirring it all around every 15 minutes.

blarg isn't this frigging caramel corn done yet.

Keep the caramel corn in an airtight container, probably in a safe to which you don’t know the combination.

– Cat

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Fluffy Homemade Marshmallows

If, when you looked up this recipe, you thought to yourself, “I would like to make something that is easy and not messy at all.” Then this is not the recipe for you.

Marshmallow making is messy. But it’s the fun kind of messy. The kind where the sticky mess is the kind you want to eat; and then smoosh in between two graham crackers with chocolate.

There are quite a few steps to this recipe, but it is pretty easy overall. I am going to preemptively say that the first time you make this is the hardest and messiest, and it gets easier from there…but I’ll let you know if that’s actually true when I start making these weekly for the restaurant.

I did A LOT of recipe research before I made these. There are a shocking number of variations for something so simple. In my mind I have always thought marshmallows were made with eggs because of their meringue-like quality. As it turns out, some are made with eggs and some aren’t. I went with Smitten Kitchen on this one for a few reasons. One; she tried a recipe without eggs first and liked this one better and two; she seems to know her shit.

Recipe originally from Smitten Kitchen:

Ingredients:

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 ½ envelopes (2 Tbs plus 2 ½ tsp) unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold water, divided

2 cups granulated sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

¼ tsp salt

2 large egg whites

1 Tbs vanilla

Method:

Oil the bottom and sides of a 13X9X2 inch rectangular metal baking pan, all sides dusted heavily with confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment; or in a large bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup cold water, and let stand to soften. This is called blooming, it’s a very important step when you use gelatin.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second ½ cup cold water and salt over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 F, about 12 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Turn mixer on low, and pour the sugar mixture down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture, stirring on low until the gelatin is dissolved. Try to get most of the mixture out of the pan, but don’t stress about getting all of it, as it cools it will become stringy. Feel free to eats these strings.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minute if using a stand mixer or about 10 minutes if using a hand-held.

In a separate medium bowl beat the egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan. Don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (I surely didn’t). Use a greased spatula to lightly smooth over the top. Sift ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over the top. Chill marshmallows uncovered, until firm, at least three hours or up to one day.

Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of the inverted pan, with fingers, loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallows into roughly one inch cubes (I used an oiled pizza cutter, per Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion). Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl or back into your now empty baking pan and roll the marshmallows on all six sides to coat.

a lot of marshmallows and a lot of mess

Shake off the excess and pack them away. Keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature.

A few notes:

I told you it was messy.

When I tried to remove mine from the pan, it didn’t go so smoothly. They kind of stuck to the bottom and I had to use a spatula in some spots to pry them out. Thank goodness marshmallows are springy, and they bounced right back into shape, but this is why I said to heavily coat the bottom of the baking pan.

The possibilities with marshmallows are endless. You could add peppermint or almond extract instead of vanilla, you could mix some cocoa powder with the confectioners’ sugar for coating. You could toast coconut and top the marshmallows with it before cooling, or about a million other things.

Traditionally marshmallows use powdered marshmallow root, which apparently is impossible to find. Most commercially manufactured marshmallows use gelatin, which is derived from animal byproducts. Apparently marshmallows can be made from using other gelling agents like agar agar (which comes from seaweed) or egg whites alone. I went with a traditional approach (mostly because I couldn’t find much else), but I would like to try a vegan/vegetarian friendly version. So all you vegan readers- check back later.

Luckily, I always have things on hand to make s’mores.

-Sue

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Peppermint Patties

kelly is good at pictures. such a cool background idea!

My whole life, I thought I hated chocolate and mint.  I didn’t like Thin Mints, I hated Andes mints, I REALLY hated those stupid chocolate-mint fake M&Ms they give you sometimes in Italian restaurants.  I don’t remember why I thought I hated chocolate and mint, and I only remember eating a York Peppermint Patty a couple years ago and having an epiphanic moment similar to the one I had recently regarding oven temperature.  It was glorious, a whole new world of minty, melty goodness.

I do still hate Andes mints, because they dye the mint part green.  Pretending that there’s anything close to naturally minty in Andes mints is like calling green Kool-Aid “lime”.  It’s not lime, it’s green.  No lime has ever been within spitting distance of a packet of green Kool-Aid, and the same applies to Andes mints.

Food (or in this case food-like substance): be what you are.

Also, food manufacturers everywhere: we are not idiots.  Stop trying to fool us.  We will very likely still eat your fake, over-dyed crap, at least on occasion.

So, to Peppermint Patties.  I love the way they’re not pretending to be natural by being green, the inside is white and pillowy and melty and wonderful.  I like the way they don’t cave to the overwhelming milk chocolate-loving-majority and keep using dark chocolate.  I just like them. I made these a few days before I had a wonderful food shoot with my buddy Kelly Goode of Capture Photography.  I did a few pictures of the process myself, but the gorgeous, creative amazing ones are Kelly’s, obviously.

About this recipe – it’s easy, except for the dipping in chocolate part, which is difficult for 2 reasons.

1.  I broke the chocolate twice before I Googled it and realized you can’t just throw some water into chocolate while you are trying to temper it.  If you do break the chocolate, (and by “break”, I mean put water in it so it get’s all stiff and seizes up and becomes impossible to work with and there’s no pretending you haven’t done something seriously wrong) you can mix some vegetable oil in slowly as you re-heat the chocolate and it will, albeit slowly and reluctantly, come back to normal.

this is after i broke it, and added the vegetable oil. it's healed!

2.  Dipping the peppermint rounds into the chocolate is messy and difficult.  All the recipes I read said to balance the peppermint rounds on a fork and submerge it in the chocolate, which didn’t work for me at all, because the chocolate was too thick.  In the end, I used my fingers and ended up with Scary And Also Delicious Chocolate Glove Hand as a result.  My method was to pick up the round, dip the sides in the chocolate, kind of rolling the ends in it, then use a knife to smear the top and bottom with more chocolate.  This was, as I said, extremely messy, but it did help make them more attractive, because at first they looked like my dad might have made them, and he has a pretty violent benign tremor in one hand that prevents him from drinking full cups of coffee.

oh my word there was chocolate everywhere. i promise they turn out pretty.

Peppermint Patties, from Sweet Cheeks in the Kitchen – I doubled this recipe and ended up with something like 2 dozen patties

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 1/4 cups for the patties, 1/4 cup for sprinkling

1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup

1 1/2 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp pure peppermint extract (peppermint flavoring, that is fake, get natural extract)

1 tbsp shortening

10 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chip form (the higher quality chocolate you use, the better, I used Ghirardelli)

For the filling: Beat together the 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, corn syrup, water, shortening, extract and a pinch of salt, either with a handheld electric mixer or in a standing mixer, until combined.  It doesn’t take very long, maybe 2-3 minutes, until all the sugar is absorbed and you have a nice, doughy substance in the bowl, that looks like peppermint patty filling.

On a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with a little powdered sugar, and with another piece of parchment on top of it, roll out the filling to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Freeze it for 10-15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, bring it back out, get a shot glass (or something else that will make about 1 inch rounds) and cut as many rounds out of the circle as you can.  Transfer the rounds to a parchment lined baking sheet and put in the freezer.  Re-roll the scraps and freeze, then cut out additional rounds as many times as you care to.

For the chocolate: Tempering chocolate is heating up chocolate slowly, then cooling it back down slowly, it helps the texture get that nice snap you find in candy, as well as get nice and shiny.  You can do this with a thermometer, a double boiler and an ice bath, or you can do it the easier way, with seeding.  Seeding is heating up 3/4 of the chocolate you’re using, then mixing in the remaining 1/4 to bring the temperature back down.  Much easier.  Sue is who taught me about seeding.  She’s smart.  Melt 3/4 of the chocolate in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Remove the bowl, mix in the remaining 1/4 of chocolate until the chocolate is smooth.  Dip each peppermint round into the melted chocolate (you can try the fork method, or you can use your hands and a butter knife to spread it, like I did) and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Let them firm up at room temperature for a couple hours.

– Cat

see? they were pretty in the end.

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Cinnamon and Black Pepper Cashew Brittle

Well, Thanksgiving day came, so I woke up, set the gluhwein to simmer and realized I had nothing to do.

Because I’m so organized, I had done everything the night before.

So I made cashew brittle.  Apparently.

Brittle is really easy if you have a good candy thermometer.  I have a good digital candy/oil thermometer (incidentally, it is the one Alton Brown recommends) and I use it pretty often.  It has a little guide that helps you with temperature:

So with that, it’s easy enough to make candy.

Cinnamon and Black Pepper Cashew Brittle

2 cups white sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp baking soda

12 ounces roasted cashews (or almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, whatever)

kosher salt

Clip your candy thermometer to a large saucepan (I used a little dutch oven).  Make sure the end of the thermometer is not touching the bottom or sides of the pan, you want it to measure the temperature of the caramel, not the pan.  Also, thoroughly oil a cookie sheet and set it aside.

On medium heat, combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup and melt them together.  Cook them together, stirring occasionally, watching the temperature steadily rise to 300 degrees.  So, many brittle recipes will have this process go really quickly, but I cook my caramel on medium to medium-low heat, because otherwise the sugars don’t have a chance to caramelize properly.  You want to see the liquid start to bubble and change color, slowly, without burning it.  So on medium-ish heat, it should take maybe 20-30 minutes to come to 300 degrees.

bubbling and browning nicely.

At about 200 or so degrees, stir in the pepper and cinnamon.  When the mixture reaches 300 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the baking soda, taking some care as it will bubble a bit.  Then stir in the nuts and pour it onto your greased cookie sheet.  Working quickly with a silicone spatula or a greased metal spoon, spread the brittle out all over the sheet.  Then, sprinkle the still wet brittle with salt.

Let it cool at least an hour, then break it into pieces.  It’ll keep in an airtight container for weeks.

cashews are good in brittle. much better than stupid peanuts.

– Cat

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