candy

Corn Syrup Free Butter Crunch

I once wrote that if doomsday was coming and there might not be a tomorrow, I would want some butter crunch before it all ended so I could at least die happy.

That's still my choice. I don't think there's a better candy, that gives that same salty-sweet combo better than butter crunch.

I love my original recipe, but recently someone asked me if I had a recipe that didn't include corn syrup. 

I didn't at the time, but do now.

Here it is: crunchy, salty-sweet and tender chocolate on top.

Don't stint on the good stuff. This recipe is too good for cheap chocolate.

Valentine's Day, mishloach manot for Purim, doomsday, whatever. This is a good choice in (or for) any event.

 

Corn Syrup Free Butter Crunch

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

Lightly butter a small sheet cake pan (about 10”x7” or a portion of a larger pan). Place the butter, sugar and salt into a deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown (about 7-8 minutes) (or until a candy thermometer reads 280 degrees). Quickly stir in the vanilla and nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly to make a layer about 1/8”-1/4” thick. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let it melt briefly, then use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the candy. Keep spreading until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Sprinkle the nuts on top and press them in lightly. Let cool until the chocolate is firm and set, at least 3 hours. Break into pieces.

Makes about 1 pound, enough for one person, or two if you want to share

 

 

Rich Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

I love the tradition of mishloach manot -- giving away food to family, friends and even strangers during Purim. Besides the actual mitzvah of giving, it is an opportunity to do what I love: cook a lot and give the food away. It's like having the thrill of eating -- without the calories.

If you make edible gifts for Purim or as a host/hostess gift when you are invited to someone's house or for any other occasion, you might want to try truffles. They take some time but are actually quite easy to make and I guarantee they're rich and tasty and anyone would be thrilled to get them.

Check out the photo and you'll notice that I don't make my truffles perfectly rounded. Candy truffles get their name because they look like the the underground fungi, the ones that are highly fragrant and are dark, small and irregularly shaped. So the sloppy look is actually more authentic.

I made this recipe using tangerine juice and cayenne pepper. I had once tasted tangerine-chili chocolates and thought they were amazingly wonderful. The extra bit of heat pops the citrus and chocolate into one harmonious whole.

Yes, orange juice and peel are fine, though not as flavorful. And you can leave out the cayenne pepper, though I think the truffles are better with the heat.

Pack these in small cardboard or wooden boxes or small cellophane bags (you can get them at most craft stores) and you have a beautiful homemade gift for any occasion.

Or treat yourself and your family. They'll be happy.

Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

  • 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons tangerine juice
  • 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh tangerine peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, approximately
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. With the processor on, pour in the cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and well blended with the chocolate (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes (in the processor bowl). Add the juice, butter, tangerine peel and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the mixture has firmed enough to form a soft “dough.” Take small pieces of the dough and shape into small balls (they don’t have to be perfectly rounded) (I do this wearing disposable gloves). Place the balls on waxed paper or aluminum foil on cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll the balls in cocoa, sprinkles, etc.

 Makes about 3 dozen. 

 

The Birthday Dinner Dilemma

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It's my daughter Gillian's birthday today. A round numbered one. And she asked if, instead of going out to dinner at some fancy shmancy joint to celebrate, whether I would make a special dinner at home.

Of course!

With the fancy shmancy china and silverware and different size wine glasses for different wines for different courses.

Of course!

So, okay, I have the china and silverware and wine glasses. All I have to do there is make sure I have candles for the candlesticks, iron the napkins, fill the salt cellars, set the table and so on. Ed will take care of the wine.

It's all good.

BUT WHAT SHOULD I COOK?

Something new and glamorous? Fancy shmancy?

Or old favorites like Pearly Meatballs? Fried Chicken Wings? Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings? with pre-dinner cocktails.

Should I make a soup? Like Beet Soup with Orange and Mint (even the name sounds fancy doesn't it?).

For the main course I'm thinking maybe lamb. Everyone in the family eats that. But she really does like turkey. Unfortunately turkey is not the universal family favorite, so maybe no? Plus -- Gillian is our family carver, so could I really ask her to do all that slicing and deboning for her birthday dinner?

Another dilemma is that Gillian is not such a big dessert person. Or at least what people consider the usual kinds of dessert. This dessert thing would be easy if the birthday person was my son-in-law Greg. He likes chocolate cake.

Ed would always welcome chef Raymond Oliver's Normandy Ice Cream (coffee with Grand Marnier).

For me, birthday dessert is always apple pie

We are celebrating in a few weeks, so I have some time to finalize the menu plus make sure I buy those candles. 

If anyone has suggestions -- I am all ears.

In the meantime, should I also make some candy? Like chocolate dipped dried fruit?

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit

  • 2-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored brandy or rum
  • 50 pieces (approximately) dried fruit such as crystallized ginger, apricot halves, candied orange peel (about 6 ounces)

Melt the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Let the ingredients melt, remove the top part of the pan from the heat, pour in the brandy and stir to make a smooth, uniform mixture. Dip each piece of fruit in the chocolate mixture, shake off the excess and place on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

Makes approximately 50 pieces

Passover Chocolate Clusters

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Matzo Farfel Clusters

I have been experimenting with new recipes using matzo farfel. That's because I always buy too much of it and then it gets stale and I throw it out.

It can be difficult to find fresh matzo farfel in my neck of the woods (when it isn't Passover). But matzo farfel doesn't last, it gets stale quickly, so I have to use it up while it's fresh.

Here's a good way: candy!

Don't let the cayenne pepper put you off. That tiny bit of heat brings out the best in the chocolate.

Matzo Farfel Clusters

  • 2 cups matzo farfel
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the matzo farfel on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, tossing the farfel around once. Remove the pan from the oven and let the farfel cool. Melt the chocolate. Add the farfel, almonds, cranberries, coconut, orange peel and cayenne pepper to the chocolate and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture into clusters on parchment paper or aluminum foil. Let set.

 

Makes about 3 dozen clusters

 

 

Caramel Corn

Although I love a good, crunchy-crusted hunk of bread and could happily spend my life feasting on pasta, I don’t eat much of either, because going nearly carb-free is the only way I’ve found to keep my weight down to a reasonable number.   So not-eating bread and pasta during Passover is not a big deal for me.  What I miss most during the holiday is popcorn, which at all other times throughout the year I make or buy (plain) and nibble on in the belief that it is a healthier snack snack than most. Popcorn is also filling and besides I absolutely LOVE how it tastes and feels in my mouth.   Unfortunately when it comes to popcorn, I am like a chicken. Just keep putting more in front of me and I will keep pecking at it. I keep a bagful in my car trunk so it isn’t as easy to grab as, say, anything in my kitchen cabinets.  I always resume my popcorn habits after passover. And, for good measure, on a home night-at-the-movies, I sometimes indulge in the glorified caramel corn in the photo, because, hey, I haven’t had popcorn in a while and besides, I am generally carb-free.  That makes it okay, don’t you think?                                                                                          Caramel Corn   2 tablespoons vegetable oil  1/2 cup popping corn  1 cup brown sugar  1/4 cup honey  12 tablespoons butter  3/4 teaspoon salt  1 teaspoon vanilla extract  1/2 teaspoon baking soda  1 cup chopped nuts or raisins or chopped dried fruit (r a mixture of these)  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the corn kernels, cover the pan and pop the corn. When the kernels have all popped, place the popped corn in a large bowl. Place the brown sugar, honey, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and baking soda. Pour over the popped corn. Add the nuts and/or fruit if desired. Mix the ingredients to coat the kernels completely. Place the popcorn on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring the ingredients a few times. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Makes about 10 cups      An InLinkz Link-up

Although I love a good, crunchy-crusted hunk of bread and could happily spend my life feasting on pasta, I don’t eat much of either, because going nearly carb-free is the only way I’ve found to keep my weight down to a reasonable number. 

So not-eating bread and pasta during Passover is not a big deal for me.

What I miss most during the holiday is popcorn, which at all other times throughout the year I make or buy (plain) and nibble on in the belief that it is a healthier snack snack than most. Popcorn is also filling and besides I absolutely LOVE how it tastes and feels in my mouth. 

Unfortunately when it comes to popcorn, I am like a chicken. Just keep putting more in front of me and I will keep pecking at it. I keep a bagful in my car trunk so it isn’t as easy to grab as, say, anything in my kitchen cabinets.

I always resume my popcorn habits after passover. And, for good measure, on a home night-at-the-movies, I sometimes indulge in the glorified caramel corn in the photo, because, hey, I haven’t had popcorn in a while and besides, I am generally carb-free.

That makes it okay, don’t you think?                                                                                       

Caramel Corn

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup popping corn

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

12 tablespoons butter

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chopped nuts or raisins or chopped dried fruit (r a mixture of these)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the corn kernels, cover the pan and pop the corn. When the kernels have all popped, place the popped corn in a large bowl. Place the brown sugar, honey, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and baking soda. Pour over the popped corn. Add the nuts and/or fruit if desired. Mix the ingredients to coat the kernels completely. Place the popcorn on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring the ingredients a few times. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Makes about 10 cups

 

An InLinkz Link-up

Chocolate Truffles

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Chocolate instead of broccoli to stay healthy?

No, not really. But in a recent study the results indicated that eating chocolate might cut a woman’s risk for stroke. Read about it here.

This is not the first time I’ve heard that chocolate is healthy (it has flavanoids, which have anti-oxidant properties, which in turn help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol).

But this is the one of the only times I’ve heard someone caution women not to over-interpret the results. Like, do not substitute chocolate for broccoli. And a cardiologist who was interviewed said that although chocolate may be good for you, maybe the study results would have been similar if they used apple skins or grapes.

I’ve always wondered about some of these studies. I wonder whether you can prove whatever you want depending on how you go about the study.

Well, I am no scientist, so I don’t know.

But I do remember, many years ago, when the information regarding dietary fat was still in its infancy and Nabisco came out with SnackWells, the so-called “healthy” cookies because they were lower fat. And people started eating SnackWells because they thought it was okay. And judging from the number of people I met (and watched at the supermarket) who ate boxes and boxes of those cookies, most didn’t seem to realize that it’s way too many calories and that it might be more harmful than if you ate a butter cookie or two.

So the broccoli warning makes sense.

But if you want to eat something delicious and chocolate-y — for your health — try these truffles. They are amazingly easy to make and you can give them away as gifts so they’re good for the upcoming holiday season.

But don’t eat the whole batch at once.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/2 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons brandy or rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor into small bits. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. With the processor on, pour in the cream through the feed tube and process  until well blended (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes. Add the brandy or rum and the softened butter and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the mixture has firmed enough to form a soft “dough.” Take small pieces of the dough and shape into small balls. Place the balls on waxed paper or aluminum foil on cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll the balls in cocoa, sprinkles, etc.

Makes about 3 dozen. 

Loft's Butter Crunch

Which was better, Loft’s Butter Crunch or Loft’s Parleys?  For you young ones, those are the two iconic candies once sold by Loft’s, a candy company that went out of business in 1990. I’ve been in mourning ever since.  Their Butter Crunch was always my favorite. My brother insisted that the better choice was the Parley, a giant milk chocolate cigar looking thing with soft nougaty stuff inside.  Parleys were okay but Loft’s Butter Crunch was incomparable. The toffee was thick and brittle. It snapped when you broke it. The chocolate layer wasn’t overly thick so it didn’t detract from the candy part. And the nuts on the outside were tiny and soft, a sensational contrast to the velvety-tender chocolate and the crunchy center.  As well balanced as a dinner straight out of the government’s food pyramid.  I have tried for years to find a Butter Crunch as good as Loft’s, to no avail. There are fancier ones, made with single-estate chocolate or 70% cocoa chocolate. Some really expensive stuff and others from mass producers. Nothing comes close. I will grant you that Loft’s probably didn’t use great chocolate. It wasn’t your most upscale store. It sold modestly priced candies.  It’s just that their Butter Crunch was the best I ever ate.  When I was pregnant with my older daughter I refrained from sweets, to keep my weight at a decent level. But right after she was born I polished off the 2 boxes of Loft’s Butter Crunch that someone brought to me as a gift.  I’ve been experimenting making my own version lately. I made the ones in the photo yesterday to bring as a dinner gift this evening. These are good, so I’m posting the recipe. If you make them with milk chocolate and in a smaller cake pan (8”x8”) they’ll taste like Loft’s. Otherwise use dark chocolate of your choosing and use the larger pan — most people like the crunch part thinner than I do.      Butter Crunch   1 cup butter  3/4 cup sugar  1/4 teaspoon salt  2 tablespoons light corn syrup  2 tablespoons water  9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1-1/2 cups chocolate chips)  3/4 cup chopped lightly toasted almonds  Lightly butter a 9”x13” sheet cake pan. Place the butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup and water into a deep saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown (about 7-8 minutes) or until a candy thermometer reads 280 degrees. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let it melt briefly, then use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the candy. Keep spreading until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Sprinkle the nuts on top and press them in lightly. Let cool until the chocolate is firm and set, about 2 hours. Break into pieces. Makes about 1-1/4 pounds

Which was better, Loft’s Butter Crunch or Loft’s Parleys?

For you young ones, those are the two iconic candies once sold by Loft’s, a candy company that went out of business in 1990. I’ve been in mourning ever since.

Their Butter Crunch was always my favorite. My brother insisted that the better choice was the Parley, a giant milk chocolate cigar looking thing with soft nougaty stuff inside.

Parleys were okay but Loft’s Butter Crunch was incomparable. The toffee was thick and brittle. It snapped when you broke it. The chocolate layer wasn’t overly thick so it didn’t detract from the candy part. And the nuts on the outside were tiny and soft, a sensational contrast to the velvety-tender chocolate and the crunchy center.

As well balanced as a dinner straight out of the government’s food pyramid.

I have tried for years to find a Butter Crunch as good as Loft’s, to no avail. There are fancier ones, made with single-estate chocolate or 70% cocoa chocolate. Some really expensive stuff and others from mass producers. Nothing comes close. I will grant you that Loft’s probably didn’t use great chocolate. It wasn’t your most upscale store. It sold modestly priced candies.

It’s just that their Butter Crunch was the best I ever ate.

When I was pregnant with my older daughter I refrained from sweets, to keep my weight at a decent level. But right after she was born I polished off the 2 boxes of Loft’s Butter Crunch that someone brought to me as a gift.

I’ve been experimenting making my own version lately. I made the ones in the photo yesterday to bring as a dinner gift this evening. These are good, so I’m posting the recipe. If you make them with milk chocolate and in a smaller cake pan (8”x8”) they’ll taste like Loft’s. Otherwise use dark chocolate of your choosing and use the larger pan — most people like the crunch part thinner than I do.

 

Butter Crunch

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1-1/2 cups chocolate chips)

3/4 cup chopped lightly toasted almonds

Lightly butter a 9”x13” sheet cake pan. Place the butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup and water into a deep saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown (about 7-8 minutes) or until a candy thermometer reads 280 degrees. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let it melt briefly, then use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the candy. Keep spreading until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Sprinkle the nuts on top and press them in lightly. Let cool until the chocolate is firm and set, about 2 hours. Break into pieces. Makes about 1-1/4 pounds