English Toffee

Toffee topped with chocolate or chocolate and almonds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Toffee
Author: 
Recipe type: Candy, Snacks, Gifts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2+ pounds
 
This recipe makes a crunchy, nutty, chocolate-covered toffee that is perfect for holiday gifts and parties. You will probably have to make more than one batch as it is pretty irresistible. Candy gets very hot when it is cooking, so this is not a good recipe to make with children. Store the candy in an airtight container or it will tend to get sticky. If you use salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe. This is the kind of recipe where having the right tools can make a big difference in how easily the job is accomplished, but you can make this uncomplicated candy even if you have none of these tools. A candy thermometer, offset spatula, non-stick silicone spatula and non-stick silicone pan liner make this so simple any cook can be successful with little effort. I prefer to prepare the candy with small nut pieces/nut dust on top of the chocolate layer, as it is neater to break and eat. You can put chocolate on both sides of the candy by leaving about 1/3 of the chocolate aside and melting it for application once the first side has set, but I find that unnecessary.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (bar broken into small pieces or 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips)
Instructions
  1. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they are slightly darker throughout. Do not over-toast or the nuts will taste bitter. Using a silicone pan liner such as Silpat reduces the chances of burning the bottoms of the nuts and allows you to toast the nuts without any stirring. Let the nuts cool. Using a rocking motion, chop them into small pieces with a chef’s knife, holding the point of the knife against the cutting board and lifting the handle slightly and rotating the knife to a new position for the next cut. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the smaller pieces and 'dust' to use for topping the candy.
  2. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a silicone pan liner such as Silpat.
  3. Place the butter, sugar, salt and water in a heavy pan on medium heat. The mixture will foam up as it cooks, so the pan should be at least twice as deep as the ingredients. Place a candy thermometer in the mixture. Cook, swirling the mixture occasionally until the foaming subsides. At this point, the candy will cook rapidly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon until the candy reaches the hard-crack stage at 300 degrees (see Note). The candy will be a golden brown caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat immediately. The temperature will continue to rise. Working quickly, stir in the vanilla and the larger quantity of nuts. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread and smooth the surface with your spatula or spoon to about 1/4 inch. Distribute the chocolate pieces over the candy and allow them to melt for two minutes. Spread the chocolate over the surface. An offset spatula will help spread it evenly. Sprinkle the almond dust/nuts that you put aside onto the chocolate, pressing them in lightly to help them adhere. Cool the candy until the chocolate is set, break it into pieces and store in an airtight container with waxed or parchment paper between the layers. You can also put the candy in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
  4. Note: If you are not using a candy thermometer, you can test for the hard crack stage by dropping a little of the molten syrup into very cold water that you have standing by next to the stove. At hard crack it will form brittle threads that break when bent. Be careful not to touch thick pieces of candy in the water as they are likely to be hot. You cannot leave the candy on the heat while you are testing or it will burn the sugar and cause the caramel to be bitter.

 

Caramel Popcorn


Caramel Popcorn
Author: 
Recipe type: Snacks, Gifts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 quarts
 
Whether you think of caramel corn as a Halloween treat, an inexpensive holiday gift or a delicious snack, this recipe is easier to prepare than recipes that have you cook the syrup to a higher temperature before covering the popped corn. The oven heat finishes cooking the candy, while stirring the warm corn helps distribute the syrup evenly. Fill decorated holiday cellophane bags with cooled caramel corn and tie with ribbons or raffia to make great trick or treat favors or stocking stuffers for family, friends and coworkers. Fill a large tin with caramel popcorn to make a substantial holiday present that is fresher and more personal than mail order popcorn.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1/2 pound (1 cup) butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 7 to 8 quarts popcorn (see Note)
  • 1 cup of salted peanuts (optional)
Instructions
Note:
  1. One (1) ounce or 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons of unpopped popcorn will make approximately a quart of popped corn; therefore you will need to pop about 1 cup popcorn kernels. I prefer the electric poppers that have a stirrer in the bottom which make up to 6 quarts at a time because I find that air-popped corn sometimes has a scorched taste. Depending on your popper, you might need to pop the corn in two batches. Of course if you don’t have a special appliance, you can pop corn in a large pot. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil per half cup of kernels and shake the pot as you hear the kernels popping to avoid burning the corn. When the popping slows down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popped corn to your baking pan.
PREPARATION:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Use a large, non-stick roasting pan or lightly oil a large baking pan or roasting pan. If you have a silicone liner such as Silpat, you can also line your pan with that. Check the capacity of your pan before you find yourself with a lot of popcorn and a pot of hot syrup. If one pan is not large enough, plan to split the ingredients between two pans. Pop enough corn kernels to get 7 to 8 quarts of popped corn (about one cup). Place the popped corn (and the peanuts if you are using them) into your baking pan. You can leave the popped corn in the oven in your baking pan while you make the second batch and prepare the syrup. Boil sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt to the soft ball stage, 234° to 238° on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, just boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Add the baking soda (and vanilla if you are using it) and stir well. Be careful, as the hot sugar syrup will foam up when you add the soda. Pour the syrup over the popcorn and stir. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. If your oven doesn’t go that low, check the popcorn and stir more frequently. The caramel corn should be golden in color and feel less sticky when it is done. Slightly underdone is better than overdone. Remove from the oven and cool. When it is cool, break into pieces if necessary and store in airtight containers.

Chicken with Honey and Bread Crumbs

Chicken with Honey and Bread Crumbs
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree, Chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6
 
This baked chicken resembles pan-fried chicken and gets its crunch from Japanese panko bread crumbs or fresh crumbs made by pulsing bread in a food processor. It has a hint of sweetness from the honey and balsamic vinegar. When pounding chicken breasts to an even thickness, I prefer using a Ziploc bag rather than plastic wrap. The heavier plastic of the bag protects the chicken better, doesn’t move around or stick to the meat pounder like plastic wrap sometimes does, and you always know which is the clean side and which is the chicken side of the bag.
Ingredients
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 to 6 oz each)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (or fresh bread crumbs)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil. Spread the oil over the bottom and sides of the aluminum foil-lined pan.
  2. In a shallow bowl that will fit a chicken breast, mix the honey and vinegar together with a fork, scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the honey is dissolved. Put the panko or bread crumbs in a second bowl or flat plate.
  3. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. If the chicken breasts are of different thicknesses, put each breast in a Ziploc bag and pound with the flat side of a meat pounder to even the thickness. For children, you can cut the breasts across into strips to make nugget sized pieces. Working one at a time and using tongs, dip each chicken piece in the honey mixture to cover both sides and allow any excess to drip off. Place it in the crumbs and cover the whole surface with bread crumbs, pressing them lightly in place. Put the chicken in the oiled, foil-lined pan and continue until all pieces are coated.
  4. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 35-40 minutes turning halfway through to brown both sides, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer or until the chicken is no longer pink inside. The surface of the chicken should be golden brown. If some of the crumbs aren’t brown enough, you can put the dish under the broiler briefly to finish browning them.

Chocolate Pudding


Flavored with orange and garnished with orange zest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Pudding
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts, Snacks, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 1/2 cup servings
 
When the weather starts turning colder, my thoughts move to comfort food and nothing says comfort better than chocolate pudding. There is no comparison between home-cooked pudding and instant pudding or those little tubs of pudding you find in the supermarket refrigerated section. Since this comes together in minutes, there is no reason to deprive yourself of the chocolaty goodness. You can use vanilla, almond, orange, or any flavoring you like with chocolate, but start with no more than half a teaspoon and taste before adding more. Some flavoring agents are very strong. My favorite is orange extract. For a mocha flavor, dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee granules into the mixture before you start cooking it. An attractive way to serve the pudding is to layer it with berries or bananas and whipped cream in a parfait glass. If you need an almost effortless dessert for guests, you can pour the pudding into a pre-baked pie shell or graham cracker crust, chill, and top it shortly before serving with swirls of sweetened whipped cream scented with a little vanilla extract. This is an excellent recipe for making with children, especially if you use the microwave oven method.
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 cups milk, half and half, or soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of other flavoring
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan (stove-top method) or 2 quart microwave-safe bowl, sift the dry ingredients together or whisk them together thoroughly until there are no little lumps. Whisk in the cold milk using a small amount at first and then the rest once all the dry ingredients are moistened. Using the stove-top, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly at the end, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. In a microwave oven, cook on high stirring at 1 minute intervals for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flavoring. Spoon into serving dishes. If you are not cooling the pudding in individual serving dishes, you can cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap to avoid the formation of a “skin”. Garnish and serve.