|I Love Candy|
I’ve steered clear of candy making for the better part of my life, but then Mr. B asked me if I wouldn’t mind whipping up some sweet confections for him to hand out to a few of his clients. As he started to name off his favorite cookies, I could feel my jaw tighten and my fists clench. It’s not that I mind baking cookies, but honestly, I’d almost rather have all my teeth pulled.
I’m sure that when Dante was penning his famed Inferno that there was a circle of hell devoted to cookie making, where select sinners were made to spend eternity popping one cookie tray after another into a hot oven–a twist on Sisyphus where the giant rock was replaced with a giant ball of cookie dough. I’m convinced that had Dante had a more insightful editor, this detail would never have been omitted from the text.
That’s right–in my mind, cookie making is pure hell.
The alternative, of course, was candy making, so I put up my hand and stopped Mr. B. There would be no Mexican Wedding cookies or Pecan Ice Box cookies, no sugar cookies or butter spritz–“Not cookies,” I said, “but I’d be happy to whip up a few batches of toffee and fudge.” Mr. B raised his eyebrow and opened his mouth to speak, but then, thankfully, thought better of it and smiled instead; he knew I’d never made candy before–was even scared of trying–but who was he, these short few days before Christmas, to remind me of that small detail?
Off to his office he went, while I fetched my candy thermometer and went to work researching candy making. How difficult could it be, I wondered, when finally, with butter and sugar at the ready, I took my place at the helm of my trusty Amana.
I quickly learned two things: the first, candy recipes are chock full of lies and arbitrary and abstract directions–“beat 100 times,” “boil for 2 minutes,” “make on a dry day.” To survive, I had to rely on my candy thermometer and basic common sense. The second thing I learned is that I found myself absolutely smitten by the danger of bringing large quantities of sugar, water, and butter to temperatures so high that imminent danger was not only probable, but quite possible. Somewhere between the soft ball stage and the hard crack stage was an adrenaline rush to beat any roller coaster. Clearly, I’d finally discovered the true meaning of the old phrase, “Sugar Rush,” and I was hooked.
Out of those few days in front of the stove, I managed to discover THE peanut butter fudge recipe. The best one. Ever. But, unfortunately, I’ll have to take that one to my grave because it’s deadly; I must have eaten a pan by myself and Mr. B’s clients raved–even begged for the recipe. Instead, I’ll share a recipe for a very fine English Toffee that rivaled any I’ve ever eaten.
4 sticks of butter
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
finely crushed almonds
1. Put butter, sugar, water, and salt into a large, heavy pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
2. Continue to cook, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 300 degrees.
3. Immediately pour onto a rimmed sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
4. Cool for 5-7 minutes and then score with a pizza cutter; you may have to go over the lines several times.
5. Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until melted.
6. Immediately spread over the toffee and sprinkle with crushed almonds.
7. Place in the refrigerator–or freezer–until chocolate sets.
8. Break into squares along the score lines.