Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee

If you missed my book review of Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist, turn around and read it.  It’s an excellent book full of encouragement to share life around the table with those you love!

When I read the recipe for the Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee I knew it would be one of the first ones I would try.  I’m a sucker for anything that melts butter and sugar and calls it good enough to eat!

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Don’t be fooled by how fancy this toffee looks.  Shauna’s recipe goes against all rules of candy-making by skipping the candy thermometer all together, making it super easy to make!  I’m a rule follower, and when it comes to candy-making I like to be very precise so it was a stretch for me to make this with only my visual instincts to tell me when it was done.  But it worked!  And it is every bit as delicious as it looks!

Make it.  Enjoy it.  Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee

Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 cups sugar

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tsp coarse sea salt

  • In a saucepan, combine butter and sugar, and bring to a boil.  Over medium-high heat, keep stirring until it turns a deep amber color.
  • Remove from heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or until cool and solid to the touch.
  • Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water.  When the chocolate is smooth, pour it over the toffee and spread with a spatula.  Sprinkle sea salt, and then refrigerate until cooled and solid.  Break into irregular pieces.
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#16 Boston Cream Candy

I’ve already gushed over my love for Boston (even though I’ve never actually been there), so trying this recipe was a bit of a non question for me.  Yes please!

I gravitate towards candy recipes because they are almost always things that I can actually eat.  But the truth is that I’m just not very good at them.  And I can’t figure out why.  I watch my candy thermometer really closely, and I do everything the recipe tells me to, and yet I rarely get it right.  I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to turn out from the second step.  I had my sugar mixture on the stove for 40 minutes and my sugar never dissolved.  I went ahead and finished it out anyway, knowing the taste would still be wonderful, even if the texture wasn’t right, and that absolutely proved to be true.  It was slightly grainy, but tasted oh so wonderful!

Boston Cream Candy (recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking)

Makes about 1 pound

4 Tbsp unsalted butter; more for the pan

2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup light Karo syrup

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

  • Butter an 8×8-inch baking pan. Line the pan with a piece of parchment large enough to hang over two sides. Butter the paper, too, and tuck it flat against the pan. Put the chopped pecan pieces in a handy spot where you’ll be working.

  • Combine the sugar, salt, Karo syrup, half-and-half, cream, and butter in a heavy-based 3-qt. pan, stirring with a wooden spoon over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. This can take a while, and it’s hard to see; you should feel the texture (rub a little between your fingers or run your finger along the mixture clinging to the spoon) to be sure all the sugar is dissolved.
  • Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture foams to a boil. Add the baking soda. Lower the heat and stir like mad. The mixture will double in volume and then gradually subside and begin to take on a golden hue. After the mixture settles a bit, put in a warmed candy thermometer. Continue to stir constantly, scraping the sides, and cook over medium-low heat until the thermometer registers just 240°F. Watch very carefully, as the thermometer will hover at 239° for a while and then move up. You must remove the mixture before it passes 240°F.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and take out the thermometer. Continue to stir quickly. The candy will look like a loose caramel sauce. Add the vanilla (watch out, it may sputter) and stir carefully to incorporate. Add the pecans and continue stirring quickly. Don’t take your eyes off the mixture at this point. Watch and feel it as it begins to thicken, lighten in color, and become harder to stir. When it has thickened enough to leave a path on the bottom of the pan while you’re stirring, it’s just about ready. The moment you notice that the mixture is just beginning to lose its glossy shine, turn it out into the buttered pan.

  • Don’t wait until the mixture looks completely matte or it will be too dry when you try to cut it. If you stop stirring at the right moment, the mixture will firm up almost the second it hits the pan. Too soon, it will never be anything more than caramel (although very good caramel); too long, it will harden in the pot.
  • As soon as the candy cools (15 to 20 min.), cut it into squares. It will probably have tiny bubbles on top. It may well crumble when cut. If it doesn’t harden immediately, just let it sit for several hours, even overnight, and it may harden. If not, you have great caramel.

What I love about this caramel candy goodness:  It tastes amazing, even when you screw it up.

What I hate about this caramel candy goodness:  Eh…it was difficult.  Really, really difficult.  And I think I still have a cavity.

#9 Peanut Butter Hearts

These whimsical peanut butter hearts are very similar to the peanut butter bon-bons I make at Christmas each year.  They are ridiculously addicting.  I found the recipe on a lovely blog called Sugar and Charm that I’ve been enchanted with over the past few weeks.  It’s filled with creativity and sweet treats!  In her version she made egg shapes for Easter which turned out super cute as well!

Peanut Butter Hearts ♥ (recipe courtesy of Sugar & Charm)

Makes 15-20 hearts

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

3 Tbsp butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups chocolate chips, melted

  • Mix together powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter and vanilla.
  • Roll the the mixture out to about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Use a heart cookie cutter to get a nice shape.

  • Place all the hearts on parchment paper and leave in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
  • Melt the chocolate in a double-broiler and then hand dip the peanut butter hearts using a fork and a spatula.

  • Place them on the parchment paper and place in the freezer again for a few minutes for a nice smooth finish.
  • Add sprinkles if desired.

What I love about these candy hearts: I really love sprinkles.  They are like the glitter of the food world, and I’m pretty sure that all sweets taste better covered in sprinkles. ♥

What I hate about these candy hearts: It’s easy to eat several at a time…and then I have a stomach ache.

#3 Toffee Chocolate Candy

I’ve had this recipe marked for over a year now.  I’m not sure why I’ve never tried it.  It looks fairly simple and I love toffee more than pretty much any other confection.  Good Lord in heaven, I love confections.  In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m fairly certain I have a new cavity and need to make a trip to the dentist.  That’s how much of a sweet tooth I have.  I like to consider it somewhat of a blessing that I have celiac disease, or I would absolutely be a 300 pound baker with a mouth full of cavities.  Yikes!  While I can’t eat most of what I bake, candy is always a resounding YES! for me.  Maybe that’s why I’ve put this recipe off for so long, knowing it will be near impossible for me to stay away from.  This delicious toffee confection owns the third spot in my 30 day baking challenge!

Toffee-Chocolate Candy (recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine)

Makes about 35 two-inch pieces

6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 tsp light corn syrup

1/2 tsp  salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

  • Combine the chocolates and set aside
  • Set a small bowl of water and a pastry brush next to the stove.  In a heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, cook the butter, sugar, 1/4 cup water, corn syrup, and salt over medium heat.

Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves; then stir gently and only occasionally as the mixture approaches 300 degrees and begins to darken.

Brush the sides of the pan down with a little water every once in a while to keep the sugar from crystallizing.  When the mixture reaches 300 degrees (this will take about 18-20 minutes), remove the pan from the heat, carefully add the vanilla, and stir in it.  With a heatproof rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into a metal 9×11-inch baking pan set on a rack.  Tilt the pan until the toffee covers the bottom of the pan evenly.  Let cool for 2 minutes.

  • Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate and let it melt for a few minutes (cover with another baking pan to help it melt).  Smooth the chocolate with a spatula (use a narrow offset spatula if you have one) and sprinkle on the pecans.  Let cool completely (3-4 hours) and then break or chop into pieces; use a metal spatula or a blunt knife to pry the toffee out of the pan.  To help the chocolate set faster on a warm day, refrigerate candy.

When I first took my toffee off the stove I thought maybe I had cooked it a few seconds too long.  Candy making has a real science behind it, and I haven’t yet mastered it.  I’m lucky if I can get my candy to turn out 50% of the time.  However, I watched that thermometer like a hawk and took it off as soon as it reached 300 degrees.  Turns out I hadn’t cooked it too long after all.  Either way, this stuff is like crack and  I’ll be sure to get rid of it pronto so I don’t fall victim to another cavity.  Dr. Patten worked too hard, and I suffered 5 long years of braces to get my teeth to look nice. 🙂

Here’s what I love about this candy crack:  Duh. It’s crack.

Here’s what I hate about this candy crack:  Same as above.  It’s going to give me more cavities!  Overall, great and easy recipe!

She loves me!

This weekend I was honored to make chocolate truffles for Westside Church’s South Campus Mother’s Day event.

It was a lot of fun putting together these special packages to honor some really lovely moms!

I feel so blessed to know so many great moms.  Here’s some of my favorites!

  • Sarah Swan–Emery is so incredibly lucky to have you as his mama.  You stepped into this role seamlessly!  Can’t wait to meet the new little pea to join our family!
  • Shauna Ditchen–Ella and Ethan are two of the most fortunate kids I know! I love watching them grow up!
  • Allie Summers–it’s inspiring to watch you with Sienna and Brie.  There are just so many things I appreciate about how you mother your two little girls.  So excited to meet your new little one this year!
  • A’Leah Knight–I’ve watched you be a mother since day one for you.  I remember holding Kian the day he was born and thinking that he’s going to be one of the funnest kids around.  You are a such a fantastic mother to Kian and Lily!  Thanks for always letting me be a part of their lives. 🙂
  • Tiffany Lippold, Dara Ward, and Laura Cronin–you guys all have your first precious little ones coming so soon!  Can’t wait to watch you all be their mamas! ♥

Yep, I’m incredibly blessed to walk through life with all of them. But here’s what I’m most thankful for.

That’s my pretty mama back when my sister and I were little.  She’s the best in the world!  She prays for me.  She taught me how to love Jesus.  She laughs with me.  She acts silly with me.  She understands me.  She puts up with me. She loves me!

She’s an excellent writer.  She’s creative and artsy.  She endlessly kicks my butt at Words With Friends.  She laughs at herself and taught my sister and I to do the same.

Sometimes we shop together and dream about things we probably shouldn’t spend money on…and then convince each other it’s a good idea. 🙂

She encourages me.  She’s an avid reader and a lover of coffee.

She’s amazing, and she loves me.  I can’t say enough about how wonderful she really is.  Not a day goes by that I do not realize just how blessed I am. ♥  Mom…I love you so.

Fluffity Puffity!

It’s been made popular by such goodness as Peeps, Mallomars, Smores, Rice Krispy treats, and Rocky Road ice cream.

They’re a staple around a campfire, and a must have on sweet potatoes.

They are puffy, light, airy, spongy, and way too easy to consume more than you should.

This sweet little confection I’m speaking of is the marshmallow, and when they are homemade, they are divine.

Aaron convinced me to make these this Christmas.  I’ve wanted to for a long time, but with so many new things I want to try, they seem to get pushed to the bottom of the list each year.  That and the fact that I was slightly intimidated by the process for quite some time.  A few days before Christmas we were enjoying the luxury of cable tv in our hotel room in Portland and got sucked into Iron Chef’s holiday dessert competition.  One of the teams made marshmallows to top their spiked hot chocolate, and we were sold!  It’s a sticky, stringy, marshmallow-y tacky mess, but well worth it in the end.  They make the cutest gifts!

Pair it with this little doo-da, and you’re going to make someone excited enough to do this…

Homemade Marshmallows

(Recipe courtesy Alton Brown)

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray
  1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
  2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners’ sugar mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.

Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Superfudge!

Oh to relive the days of Freckle Juice, Sheila the Great, Tootsie, Peter and Fudge.  I’m fairly certain these characters have stood the test of time and are still being enjoyed by kids today, but even if they aren’t, they are a permanent fixture among my childhood memories.

These are all characters from some of Judy Blume’s most famous books.  One of my favorites has always been Fudge, who is an annoying little brother with an increased vocabulary.  I’m pretty sure I identified with the annoying younger sibling role, but the increased vocabulary, hands down, belonged to my lovely sister.  She’s the smart one. Like ridiculously smart.  Like the kind of smart where your stocking is full of mechanical pencils, a new calculator, maybe a protractor, and a book of Sudoku puzzles.  And I love her like crazy!  But I think it’s safe to say that I played the part of the annoying little sister pretty well.  I’m so glad we’re grown and LOVE being around each other now!

The story is presumably set in 1978, the year Superman debuted in film, and this film becomes a major topic in the storyline as Fudge convinces himself he was born on Krypton and can become like Superman…hence, Superfudge!  And all this to say, anytime I eat, make, or buy fudge, I think of this childhood classic.

I have to be honest about my history with this classic candy.  It is one of my favorite candies to consume.  But for all of the things I CAN make, I have never had a pan of fudge turn out.  Never.  Too grainy, never set up, hard as a rock…you name it, I’ve ruined it.  My friend Billie gave me her recipe for “No Fail Microwave Peanut Butter Fudge” last Christmas, which truly is a piece of heaven in your mouth.  I was pretty certain I could make this one work.  Not only did it have the words “no-fail” in the recipe, but it was made in the microwave.  This recipe was invented for people who don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to making fudge.  My thought to myself…I’m golden!  I’ve got this in the bag!  Let’s just say the recipe should be renamed “No Fail Unless You Are A Complete Idiot Peanut Butter Fudge”.  Seriously.  What a disappointment.  What’s wrong with me?!  I determined to never try it again…until last week.

I found a recipe about a month ago for lemon fudge.  I kept it despite my track record with the candy, and when I was going through recipes to find a few more things to make with my fresh lemons, this one called my name.  I had to give it a try.  I was prepared for discouragement.  I was expecting failure.  I was anticipating the worst.  I had braced myself for defeat.  And what I got was a pan of deliciousness that made my heart smile for summer!

I was so happy to package this delectable treat up for three wonderful people!  The first went to my dear friend Lynne who loves all things lemon.  I knew she would be excited to try this one out!  The second went to one of my closest friends, A’Leah.  She is someone I am thankful to walk through rough seasons of life with, and sometimes when nothing seems to be going right, a piece of candy is exactly what makes everything seem better.  And the third box went to Aaron’s cohort leader at George Fox.  She has been a huge advocate for him through the entire program, but in the last few weeks as job prospects are looming on the horizon, she has gone above and beyond to help him finish strong.  My favorite part about baking something is giving it away!

Happiness is lemon fudge!