For those of you who have me figured out, you realize I’m all about the images. I try not to get too wordy in my posts. I like to let the photos speak for themselves. But this post has a story to it, one that has to be told in its long version to be appreciated.
I started with this toffee recipe back before I bought a bed and breakfast in Maine in 2004. It fact, made it several times, successfully. So when we bought the inn, I thought I’d make it as my thing, to put in the candy dishes in the rooms every day. It would become my signature candy, no commercial candies for me, it had to be homemade. So one day I got out my trusty candy thermometer (the same one I used before when making the toffee) along with the other ingredients and started making toffee.
Let me first preface the rest of the story by saying DO NOT MAKE TOFFEE AT CHECK-IN TIME. Repeat, DO NOT MAKE TOFFEE AT CHECK-IN TIME. My kitchen was open to the guest entrance (which I loved) so in walk some guests to check in. I’m standing over my pot of melted butter and sugar in its light golden stage of yumminess. I tell my guests that I’ll just leave the mixture on low while I give them the tour and show them to their room. They even offer to wait until I’m done (maybe they had more sense than I did given that I was using a candy thermometer- pretty serious stuff). But NO, DON’T WORRY, THE CARAMEL IS STILL IN THE VERY EARLY STAGES AND NOT EVEN READING 200 YET (it needed to reach 290)…so off we go. You can see where this is going. After a few minutes upstairs I begin to smell smoke. I run downstairs to the kitchen and the caramel in the pan is as BLACK as ASPHALT and smoking the house up. Thankfully the smoke alarms didn’t go off (my guess is that because Summer in Maine is gorgeous we leave all windows open almost all Spring/Summer/and part of Fall. I ran outside with the pan so that it could continue to smoke OUTSIDE and not INSIDE. Baking is supposed to make the inn smell good, right? The rest of the checkins that day heard my “don’t assume the smell of burned food will be what’s to come in the morning, please!!!!” and they all laughed.
Over the next year I attempted to make toffee again, promising NEVER to leave the pan unattended again. I followed the recipe exactly. Removed the mixture from the heat when the thermometer read 290. But it still looked too pale to be done. But I followed the recipe. After a handful of attempts and trashed toffee, I bought a new thermometer. This time, a fancy digital thermometer.
So it had been a while before I decided to try making toffee again. But now that I have a new thermometer, I was confident. But this time I had just been given a gift of a box of See’s Peanut Brittle, I think it was just before the holidays, and we happened to have a little snow on the ground. If you haven’t tasted See’s brittle, GO ONLINE and BUY IT NOW, it’s just amazing. Or maybe you shouldn’t because you could become addicted and be in my predicament of trying to create it at home…So the primary difference between brittle and toffee is baking soda and/or cream of tartar, it some how changes the texture just slightly.
I get all of my ingredients out, new candy thermometer and I decide to make brittle. I follow the recipe (except I used too small a saucepan but couldn’t have imagined that would matter)…WRONG. Candy making tip: DO NOT ASSUME WHEN MAKING CANDY. Repeat: DO NOT ASSUME WHEN MAKING CANDY. When it comes time to add the baking soda at just the precise moment, I add it and am prepared to stir quickly as the recipe reads, but I wasn’t prepared for a big VOLCANIC ERUPTION from my 3 quart saucepan. Fortunately my kitchen door was only 15 feet from the stove, I ran with the erupting saucepan outside and leaned over the porch rail JUST IN TIME for the blobby bubbly brown mess to pour over the edge of the pan and plop onto the beautiful WHITE SNOW. This brown blobby mess hardened in the once white snow immediately, AT OUR INN’S FRONT ENTRANCE, looking like someone had a bad case of the stomach flu (oh dear what if our guests thought it was from my breakfast?) My husband tried to remove the hardened candy from the snow but it wasn’t as easy as he thought. So he covered the mess up with more snow. Out of sight, out of mind…so the blobby mess sat beneath a winter’s worth of snow. By spring there was no sign of it. That was my FIRST and LAST attempt at making brittle.
So YEARS LATER after we sold our inn…I decide to get the almonds out of the pantry and right away my husband knew where I was going with this. He said “uh oh”, but right away I said “no, you know what, I’m making my original toffee and I’m NOT going to rely on the thermometer. I know what color it should be.” And that’s exactly what I did. I used both thermometers just to verify what I thought all along, that my eye knew what would be right. The thermometers gave an inaccurate reading. And many chefs do things the same way, by touch, taste, appearance, smell, using the senses. MY TOFFEE TURNED OUT PERFECTLY DELICIOUS WITH JUST THE RIGHT TEXTURE.
SO HERE’S THE RECIPE with my coconut twist:
3 cups whole raw almonds (you can buy them already roasted but I prefer to roast my own)
2 cups shredded coconut
2 sticks butter
1 tablespoon water
1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons corn syrup
1. roast almonds and coconut on sheet pan in oven on 300 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Let them cool.
2. chop the nuts in a processor – stopping halfway to reserve about half the mixture leaving some larger pieces, then continue to pulse into small pieces.
3. put butter in 3 quart saucepan (we’re not adding baking soda so this size is adequate!) and add the water, corn syrup and sugar and heat to melt over medium heat.
4. Once melted, bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring with heatproof spatula occasionally for about 10 minutes (here is where the recipe calls for heating to 290 degrees) but I say heat it until it JUST gets to the right color of toffee (camel brown) and then remove from heat.
5. immediately add the large chop nuts and half of the small chop nuts and quickly fold to combine. The mixture will harden quickly.
6. spread onto parchment lined sheet pan with an offset spatula or heatproof spatula to the desired thickness.
7. top with 2 cups of chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet but you can use milk chocolate or a combination), let sit for a couple minutes, then spread the melting chips over the toffee.
8. top the melted chocolate with the remaining finely chopped nuts and let sit at least a few hours at room temperature. When completely set, break into pieces and store in an airtight container. Freezes beautifully!
This recipe is in my Cookbook, The Art of Breakfast (which includes baked goods, chocolates, etc!)
Looking for a quick and easy appetizer? Five simple ingredients:
- fresh salmon
- wonton wrappers
- cracked black pepper
- olive oil
Fill, fold, drizzle with olive oil (or you could use a spray) and bake at 350 until the edges get crispy!
From The Art of Breakfast…
Chive and Cream Cheese Scrambled Eggs in Wonton
This is a fun and delightful way to serve simple, scrambled eggs. Add salsa, cheddar, and some crumbled spicy sausage and you have a nice Latin inspired breakfast.
16 wonton wrappers
12 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 bunch scallions,trimmed 1 inch from top and bottom, using both white and green parts, sliced 1/8-1/4 inch thick
one (8-ounce) package cream cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a popover pan with butter or vegetable oil. Take 3 to 4 wonton wrappers for each popover cavity and line it, overlapping the wrappers. Be sure to get a wrapper into the bottom.
Bake until the tops are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Then cover carefully with foil and bake another 15 minutes. This allows the wonton wrapper inside the pan to continue browning without over browning the edges. Let the wrappers sit to cool a few minutes and place each on individual serving plate.
Mix the eggs and the cream in blender for 5 seconds.
Coat a large frying pan with butter or vegetable oil. Over medium heat, pour the eggs and scallions into pan and slowly cook until eggs are almost scrambled.
Add the cream cheese in small dollops and continue to cook until the eggs are set, just another minute or so. Add salt and pepper to taste
To serve, portion one-fourth of the eggs in each wonton cup. You could serve this version with salsa on the side with a few slices of ripe avocado and fresh heirloom tomatoes.
Kitchen Tools: popover pans are designed specifically with a lip that forces the popover up and out to expand, creating the signature balloon shaped top. The pan works perfectly in this recipe since it’s tall and holds the wonton wrappers in place vertically.
I halved a fresh fig, dipped it into Vanilla Bean Creme (recipe in The Art of Breakfast) and then into raw sugar and torched! Add a drizzle of the creme on top and voila, a beautiful, delicious garnish or even small bite for dessert.
Wonderful as an afternoon treat with coffee or tea.
Add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and you have a perfect dessert.
4 cups fresh sweet Bing cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup port wine
1 tablespoon chocolate balsamic
vinegar (I use Fiore), but if not
available, use an aged Balsamic
1 teaspoon arrow root powder
(dissolved in a couple
tablespoons of the port)
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 sheet frozen puff pastry,
4 ounces softened cream cheese
4 ounces shaved chocolate (or
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix the pitted cherries with the sugar, port,
balsamic, dissolved arrow root powder, and cocoa
and put into medium saucepan. Cook over medium
heat until sauce comes to a boil. Remove cherries and boil
sauce 2 to 3 minutes longer to thicken. Remove from heat and
place cherries back into sauce and allow to rest.
3. Press the puff pastry sheet into a 9-inch shallow and greased baking dish or tart
4. Spread the softened cream cheese on the pastry. Spread the chocolate shavings
(or chips) evenly over the cream cheese. And using a slotted spoon, place the
cherries in a single layer over chocolate.
5. Bake for 35 minutes. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.
Recipes can be found in The Art of Breakfast, How to Bring B&B Entertaining Home