Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Toffee Confidence

Andy has terrible pneumonia. Like coughing all night, sweating like the Trevi Fountain kind of pneumonia. And it's not going away. I feel like I can't leave him alone, even though I can't do much for him except get him food and water. I'm trying so hard to be a doting wife...but I suck at it. I think he got the pneumonia from holding 200 kids on his lap last week when I volunteered him to play Santa...four times. So it's all my fault.

"I want a red remote control car and a
screwdriver to fix it when it breaks." True story. 
Tonight is a new episode of "Storage Wars."  I can't complain about it because he's so sick and it's his favorite show. I should go out and do some shopping for our parents but...I'll wait until he can go with me I guess. Tonight on the show someone bought a storage unit for $2000 and it happened to have $300,000 worth of Chicano art in it. "Shut the front door," he says with a croak. Whatever lifts his spirits, I say. That's the first time I've heard him speak for a few days.

Christmas 2012 is one week away.

Feel the p.a.n.i.c.

I love English toffee. I'm a toffee freak. It's the stuff in my purse when we go to the movies at Christmas. I make it to eat it. Then we put some out on the counter one year in St. George and as people visited, it started to disappear and I would make more for myself. There are a LOT of great movies at Christmas!

I used to make a couple of batches every year. Sometimes it would work out and other times it would make my house smell like a Wonka fire or turn into candy sand. It has a vicious turning point and you just have to know when to take it off the heat. If you go to the bathroom and it amount of Febreze or fabulous Christmas candle will make that smell go away until Christmas 2017.

As my toffee confidence grows, so does the list of people that we give it to. So the Storage Wars marathon has worked out perfectly!

People don't make it very often, or make very much of it because its very finicky and they say "it just doesn't turn out." So this is a quick blog to give everyone some toffee confidence.

I just finished the last batch of the year - making the total this year 48 POUNDS of candy. The same amount of candy as my nephew Tyler weighs. ;-) I didn't burn a single batch. I did 12 double batches. Thanks Storage Wars marathon!

So this is how it's done in case you weren't on the list. Email me and I'll add you next year.

Start buying butter (the real stuff) in September, one or two pounds a pay check and freeze it. You'll need 50 pounds of sugar eventually too. Hahahahaha.... just kidding.

Not really kidding.

The following recipe will make about 4 pounds of toffee. ($60 worth of candy! Think of the savings!)

This is a double recipe that covers one full-sized cookie sheet with a thick layer of toffee.

0.    Use a restaurant quality candy thermometer - and not a cheap glass tube-like one. Those are      dangerous and could explode. No candy for you. Such a shame.

1.    You need your biggest heaviest saucepan. Not like those ones you had in college.

2.     Melt four squares of butter on medium heat. If you use margarine, you're still in college? Don't use margarine... for the love.

3.     Take the butter off the heat and add three cups of sugar, six tablespoons of water and six tablespoons of light corn syrup (I use whatever's on sale) to the melted butter. Measure it. That's every ingredient.

4.     Stir it all together.

5.    Add it back to the medium heat.

6.    Add your thermometer and walk away. But not too far away. It will start to boil - make sure it doesn't boil over - if it does, your heat is too hot.

7.    Lets talk about stirring. Stir it a few times every five minutes or so. I don't stand there and watch it. BY ALL MEANS - don't scrape the sides of the pan. The sugar molecules that aren't down in the butter get confused and then everybody defaults to something that looks like cheap brown sugar. Nasty. Just turn around and chop nuts and get your pans ready.Multi-task! From the time it starts boiling to the time it's done is only about 12 minutes so focus people! Focus!
8.     Use non-stick spray, or butter, on a good heavy aluminum cookie sheet that won't buckle under heat. (I buy those full sheet aluminium cookie pans at a restaurant supply because they go on sale for $5.99 at Gygis in June...always. I have about 10 of them. No couple without kids should own ten cookie sheets.)


9.     Let's talk about nuts. ;-) I buy the bags from Costco. I use pecans, almonds and cashews. I roast the almonds in a single layer on a heavy cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes (or until you can really smell them). They will dry out a little, darken up, taste better and be easier to chop up. I do pecans and cashew for about 5 minutes. Just enough to crunch them up a little. I don't mix my nuts. I heard you thinking that. Mixed nuts are for cheap weddings and bridge parties.

10.      Chop up about two cups of nuts (or three) and spread them over the cookie sheet. COVER the sheet. Don't be stingy with your nuts. ;-) You're only going to make this stuff once a year.

11. If you have a nephew that's allergic to nuts, make sure you do that batch first! Once nuts touch a pan, don't use that pan for a virgin-nut batch. You've already contaminated it. That's for you Sloan.

12.      You will be tempted to second-guess your candy thermometer. That's why I always get a new one every year. HOWEVER, be patient and wait for the candy to turn a dark caramel color - like a paper grocery bag, remember them? It will just start to smell like its burning. BUT ITS NOT! The bubbles will slow down and get lazy. it will look really foamy and glossy. Stir it more often to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pan once the heat reaches 275+. (but don't touch the sides of the pan!) When your candy gets to 300 degrees - get it off the heat and pour it carefully over the nuts. It's good to clear everyone away from this moment. That stuff will melt your children. P.S. I don't mix the nuts in because it brings the temperature down too quickly and then it doesn't spread as easily. Let gravity do the spreading for you. (True in so many ways) Gravity is the great equalizer. I wish I had known that in high school.

13.      Immediately cover the top of the candy with good chocolate chips or chunked up bars. Love chocolate? Use a lot! I'm not a big chocolate fan so I make an entire pan with no chocolate and usually nobody eats it but me. Nice plan. The chips will sink in and bury themselves in the candy. You want that - if you wait, the butter will form a layer between the surfaces and the chocolate will just come right off after its cool. Weird. Candy poured - add the chips.

14.      When the chocolate chips have melted, just take the back of a spoon and spread them out. It doesn't have to look pretty. When you've sufficiently played around in the gooey chocolate, give the spoon to someone you love.

15.     I take the sheets of toffee outside to the patio and set them on the table to cool. If there's snow on the table, all the better. Just don't let it sink and get water in your candy. Oh! And make sure you move the chairs so the dogs can't get up there. Learned that at Thanksgiving this year. Sorry JoEllen. Turns out Lily LOVES lemon meringue pie. Who knew?!

I digress.

16.    When it gets completely hard (15 min) - turn it over, crack it up with the back of a heavy table knife, bag it up (I have a little table scale and I weigh out about 1/2 lb. per bag - not enough to give anyone full on diabetes...but...) and put tags on it. Make separate bags for your in-laws because if you don't they'll fight over it and lie about how much they've eaten and accuse each other of hogging it all. You know who I'm talking about.

I make two double batches at a time about five minutes apart so they don't get to full temp at the same time. The whole process takes me about 30 minutes. One whole episode of Storage Wars. Eight pounds of candy. It's so dang easy. In fact, while I was making toffee tonight, I also made 150 suckers to sell for a fundraiser this week. That's maybe another blog. Don't want to stress anyone out.

Make toffee often or you'll never get good at it! You might waste some in the beginning and smell like a Wonka fire once or twice - but in the end, there are V.E.R.Y F.E.W. people that will say "I really hate English toffee, you jerk, that was a royal waste of time!"

In fact, no one has ever said that to me.

Most of the time they hide their small gift in their desk and eat it slowly one piece at a time...with their eyes they savor the Christmas miracle... all by themselves...and they don't tell anyone else they have it.

But now I've told you that I have 2 pounds of plain cashew toffee in my purse from now until Christmas break is over. Buy me a movie ticket and I'll gladly share. Les Mis anyone?