Wednesday, December 19, 2007

English Toffee

This is my mom's recipe that she has made for years. She makes it every Christmas and gives and it is just a part of my childhood. I love English Toffee because it has that almost burnt flavor and it is crisp and just slightly sticks in your teeth (if you make it right). Candy can be tricky because you have to know about the different stages. Soft ball, hard ball, hard crack, etc. A good definition of all of these stages can be found here. Toffee is cooked to a higher temperature so that it reaches the hard-crack stage. If you don't have a candy thermometer, which I didn't have until this year, you can test your candy by dripping a little of the mixture into a cup of cold water. When it is crunchy it is ready.

My original recipe looks like this
1 pound butter
2 cups sugar
2 Tbls. water

Cook over high heat.
Color of a new penny
Pour in pan.
Melt chocolate, pour over toffee. Nuts.

I think I will give a little more instruction here.

English Toffee

1 pound butter (I use salted)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbls water
1 pound milk chocolate, chopped
1 cup finely chopped almonds (I used roasted salted and my mom always uses smoked)

Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil and set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over med. low heat. When melted, add the sugar and water. Turn the heat to med. high and stir until sugar dissolves. The mixture will begin to bubble. Continue to stir until it reaches hard crack stage (305F on a candy thermometer). It really is about the color of a new penny.

Immediately remove from heat and our into prepared cookie sheet and spread evenly with a wooden spoon.

In a microwave, melt the chocolate in 30 second increments until it is fully melted. Pour over the toffee mixture and spread to cover evenly. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds.

Let stand until it is completely cooled. Break into pieces.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Homemade Oreos

Now how can you replicate an Oreo? When I was first married we used to buy Oreos and the entire bag would be gone in two days. They have that delicious crunchy chocolate cookie on the outside and the super fattening and sugar filled frosting in the center. I am a twist and lick person myself, but I also love dunking them in an ice cold glass of milk and then you get to drink the milk when you are finished with the little pieces of chocolate cookie floating around. So yummm...

I don't eat Oreos like I used to, but I still love them. This homemade version is a really great recipe. I thought the mixing process was odd for a cookie. You put it together backwards by adding the wet ingredients last and there is no "creaming" of the butter and sugar. This makes for a sandy textured cookie, crisp on the outside, but slightly chewy in the center. The frosting is really good too. Very vanilla tasting. This cookie is definitely hard to resist. A definite winner for a Christmas cookie.

Homemade Oreos
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies
For the chocolate wafers:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 1½ cups sugar*
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg
For the filling:
¼ cup (½ stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Set rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.
In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, (I used a mixer)thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.
While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
To assemble the cookies, put the frosting in a large ziploc bag and cut off a 1/2 inch tip from the corner. Pipe about 1 teaspoon of filling onto the bottom side of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
*These are really good small so be careful about sizing your balls of dough.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Caramel Candy Bars

I have been baking, just nothing new. I have a few favorites that people request which also make great holiday cookies. I came across this recipe because I was looking for a way to use up a 14oz bag of Kraft Caramels that I had in the cupboard. This was easy to make and was very delicious. I didn't use the nuts because not everyone likes nuts and I was sending these off to school with my husband. I was surprised at how well these bars held together because the dough was so crumbly. Nice and rich and overall a great recipe.

Caramel Candy Bars

1 bag (14oz) caramels
1/3 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick cooking or old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or dry roasted peanuts

Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick spray

Heat caramels and milk in 2 quart saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth

Stir together, flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and egg in large bowl. Stir in butter with fork (I usd my hands) until mixture is crumbly. Press half of the crumbly mix in the pan.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove from the oven sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over the baked layer then drizzle with the melted caramel. Sprinkle with remaining crumbly mixture. Gently pat together. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Loosen edges from sides of the pan; cool completely.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Giant Ultra Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

When my husband took a bite of these he immediately said, "Mmmm. These-are-so-good," with extreme empahasis on each word. I really think these are his new favorite. Even though chocolate chip cookies are such a basic kind of a cookie, it is still fun to try new recipes because they all come out so different. The special little addition in these is an extra egg yolk. The added fat gives them a great chew and that is how I love my chocolate chip cookies. CHEWY! I used these adorble little striped Christmas white chocolate chips. They were delicious as are chocolate chips I am sure. The butter is melted and so I just whipped the whole thing by hand. No electric appliances necessary. If you love chewy cookies you should really give these a try and they would make a great Christmas treat for friends and neighbors.

Giant Ultra Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 c plus 2 Tablespoons flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 c butter, melted and cooled to warm
1 c brown sugar
1/2 white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a mixing bowl whisk the melted butter and sugars by hand. About 2 minutes.

Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until it still has some flour streaks. Add the chocolate chips and stir until just incorporated.

Scoop into scant 1/4 cups and bake on prepared baking sheet for 15-17 minutes.

*I only put 4 on a pan at once. They need room to spread. Yields 18 giant cookies.
*Another note: I also like to use salted butter when I make chocolate chip cookies. I think they taste better a little saltier.