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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Easy Toffee

I'm still looking for an easy, tasty toffee or nut roca.  My last post is tasty, but I thought I'd try a recipe I found at Tasty Kitchen to compare.   The toffee was easy to make!

Toffee floating near the 12 Apostles, Port Campbell Nat'l Park, Australia

The color of the cooked toffee mix is good on missamy's pictures so that's what I went by.  However, I didn't let mine get quite as dark, but almost.  Mine did NOT smoke, but I did close the bedroom doors with the smoke detectors just in case!  I also used medium high heat, not high heat.  I only made 1/4 of the original recipe (but almost a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips) and put it in a 8 x 8 baking pan. I also used pecans and almonds for the topping.  I like how the sliced almonds "slice" through the toffee.
I think the flavor is close to my earlier post, but these won't crack your crowns! I sprayed the pan with cooking spray, but next time I would use parchment paper to line it - a tip from Anna at Cookiemadness.  I want to try this using my brown sugar recipe, but follow the technique for the Tasty Kitchen recipe. 
Let me know what you think if you try these!    Linked up to: Sweets for Saturday

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nut Roca Bars

We had 8 inches of snow yesterday. The University where I work rarely closes, but today they closed until noon.

Brother Mark fighting the snow blower.
I decided not to fight the slippery roads and instead decided to cook up an old favorite candy recipe of mine.  My dad used to bring home a special candy treat when he would go on business trips - it was called Almond Roca.  

I don't remember where I came across this recipe, but I think I've changed it a bit over the years.  It is simple and delicious, but doesn't always slice up pretty so for you perfectionists out there, beware .  The rejects are delicious though!   Below is my version.

Utensils you will need:
9 inch pie pan
candy thermometer
small saucepan

1 generous cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped lightly toasted nuts
1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter

Pour nuts into pie pan and spread out. Set aside.
In a small saucepan melt butter and brown sugar while stirring constantly.

While keeping thermometer inserted cook and stir on medium heat until temperature reaches 275° or soft crack stage. Immediately remove from heat and pour evenly over nuts.  Take the back of a spoon or frosting spreading spatula and spread quickly and gently to cover all the nuts.  Take a fork and prick a holes across the top  so the chocolate will adhere better.  I forgot to do this this time.
Then sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top and lightly press in.  Wait for a couple of minutes until the chocolate chips melt and appear glossy. Smooth out the chocolate chips with the back of a spoon or if you have one, those nice cake frosting spatulas. 

Put into the refrigerator for about 35 minutes.  Take out of the refrigerator and allow to cool the rest of the way on the countertop if you don't need them right away.   When the chocolate is not wet or shiny anymore, invert pie plate on a cutting board. The candy should pop right out. 

I leave it on the cutting board for about a half hour or so to make sure the caramel is not hard from the refrigerator.  Using a sharp strong knife, press straight down with the chocolate side up  (or sometimes I cut nut side up.  See which way makes the chocolate stay on better.)  I don't always get perfect looking bars, but I always get delicious bars!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Vanilla conspiracy?

I have always wondered if there was a conspiracy behind adding vanilla to just about every baked product you can imagine.
I am not generally a conspiracy theory person. Stil I wonder how vanilla can enhance already bold flavors when it is so, well, vanilla? I want to know why it is an additive in almost every baked product-even when you want your baked product to taste and smell like strawberry, banana, chocolate, lemon, etc.  Have we been brainwashed into thinking vanilla enhances the flavor of *everything* we bake?   Has anyone ever tried to bake a batch of brownies with, and then without that teaspoon of vanilla to see if it makes a detectable difference?  What would happen to the vanilla industry if millions of Bakers performed a simple taste test: (make a small pan of brownies with vanilla and a small pan of brownies without vanilla) and they determined there was no detectable difference between the two? 
Well, this Baker performed the test with brownies. I went on to conclude when you want a strong flavored baked product such as strawberry, chocolate, banana, lemon, maple, etc., the teaspoon of vanilla does not affect the flavor, but it can detract from the flavor if you use too much.  I believe vanilla can enhance the flavors of certain items such  as vanilla ice cream, vanilla cupcakes, vanilla pudding, custards, and other delicate flavored desserts and sauces.   However, when it comes to wanting a bold flavor to pop, make sure your batter is not overly sweet (make sure you've added enough salt.) In addition, adding various extracts such as orange, maple, strawberry, and lemon  makes baked good's  flavors pop and adds a surprisingly delicious element to some traditional items.  I understand many of you will not be willing or able to quit your vanilla addiction to all things baked. You might tremble and perspire with fear at the thought of not adding vanilla the next time you bake something.  For you I say: baby steps.