Monday, December 20, 2010

Sugar Coma

After the last couple of weeks, I should probably have the C & H logo stamped on my forehead.

My diet regimen over the holidays is to produce so much in the way of candy and baked goods that I can't look a stick of butter squarely without feeling the need to take a 20 minute hike.  Luckily, I have coworkers who are more than happy to alleviate me of any confectionary items I may put together.

Two weekends before it was all about the baking.  Last week I was giving my digital thermometer a proper workout in preparation for a work party and a holiday party at a friend's house.  The end result of my efforts being CANDY.  Lots of CANDY.

The nice thing about candy is you can whip up a batch in about the same amount of time it takes to put a cookie dough together.  And then you don't have to spend time baking.  In spite of the quantity, I did put this together fairly quickly.  In addition to the ever-present caramel corn, there was Pumpkin Seed Brittle...

Peppermint fudge (which I won't include the recipe for here as they were the standard Special Magic Fudge, or whatever the heck they call the stuff on the back of the marshmallow fluff container)....

Almond Roca (and yes, it tastes just like the real thing, but better)....

Two kinds of truffles....  Amaretto with silver sprinkles, and Frangelico with toasted hazelnuts.

And the thing I believe elicited the most 'Oh. My. Gawd.'s were the Vanilla Bean Caramels with Fleur de Sel

Oh.  My.  Gawd.

I feel like the next post should be all about lettuce.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 cup raw, green (hulled) pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Place a foil-lined cookie sheet on a flat surface (I use the non-stick variety - if you're using plain Jane foil, you might want to butter it a bit).  Bring sugar, water and salt to a boil in a 2 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cook mixture, without stirring, and only washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in a bit of water if sugar crystals form, until the syrup reaches 238º (about 10 - 15 minutes).  The syrup will have little or no color to it.  Remove from heat and stir in seeds until sugar crystals form (don't panic - this is supposed to happen).  It should resemble course sand.

Return pan back to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar melts completely and turns a deep caramel color, about 5 minutes or so.  Carefully pour brittle out onto cookie sheet, as thinly as possible.  Cool completely and then break into pieces.

Almond Roca

1 cup unsalted butter (omit salt from recipe if butter is salted)
1 cup sugar
9 oz. sliced almonds, toasted slightly
2 cups chocolate chips

Combine butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan and melt over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved.  Turn heat up to medium and stir gently as mixture comes to a boil.  Once the mixture boils, continue to stir gently until it reaches a temperature of 300º on the candy thermometer and becomes a toffee color.  Try not to scrape the sides of the pan as you stir.

When it comes to temperature, immediately remove from heat.  Crumble in about a third of the toasted almonds and pour mixture out evenly onto a lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over hot toffee and tent the pan with a piece of foil.  Allow the chips to melt for 2 - 3 minutes, and then spread them evenly over the toffee.  Sprinkle top with remaining almonds and allow to cool.  Once cool, break into pieces.

Dark Chocolate Truffles

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, choppped
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs heavy cream
1 Tbs liquor (I used Amaretto for one and Frangelico for the other)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts, sprinkles, cocoa powder, or something else to roll the truffles in

Place chocolate in a medium bowl (make sure it is at room temp).  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan and then pour over the chocolate.  Allow to stand for about 5 minutes, then add the liquor and vanilla and mix until the liquid is completely incorporated into the chocolate.  Allow to cool for about 1/2 an hour.

Using an electric mixer, beat the chocolate mixture until fluffy and lighter in color, about 4 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate until firm, about an hour or so.

Line a dish with waxed paper.  Place your coating in a small dish.  Using a melon baller or a couple of spoons, scoop truffle mixture out and roll in coating, using your hands to form the truffle into a ball.  Place on prepared dish.  When all of the truffles are prepared, cover the dish and refrigerate another hour.

Vanilla Bean Caramels with Fleur de Sel
from Annie's Eats

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 1/4 tsp fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of an 8" square baking dish with parchment paper.  Lightly butter the parchment.

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