Christmas, part 1

The Halloween stuff has been relegated to the spare room and attic-space, and everything for Christmas is scattered around the house, half in and half out of boxes. The garland is on the mantel, though no stockings are yet hung by the chimney with care. Two tiny trees are out, but Thanksgiving travel foiled our usual post-Turkey traditional trip to the farm. Next weekend!

One batch of baking, experimental and successful. I love toffee, though I’d never really tried to make it. Surprisingly, the chocolate gave me trouble, not the sugar candy. Enh! The basic recipe:

English Toffee

Line a pan with heavy foil. Give it a light spray of vegetable oil.

In a heavy saucepan on medium, melt:

1 c butter
1 c sugar

Stir frequently for 45 minutes to an hour. Seriously. (Bring it to a boil, then let it cook till ‘hard crack’ — about 305 degrees F. Use a candy thermometer.) When it reaches 305, quickly take it off the heat, and stir in about a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Immediately pour the HOT candy into the prepared pan. Spread it evenly to the corners. Let it cool. (And for gods’ sake, resist the temptation to touch it. Hot sugar burns.)

When the toffee has set, pull it out of the pan (still on the foil) and melt:

1 bar unsweetened chocolate
1 bar bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

in a heavy saucepan or double boiler. You can add a bit of butter if you want. Once it’s fully melted, spoon it onto the toffee and spread it evenly to the edges.

Take:

2 T butter
1 c chopped nuts (pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, whatever)
1-2 T sugar
1 T cinnamon

Melt the butter in a small skillet on medium. Toast the nuts, caramelizing the sugar. Scatter them evenly across the chocolate top, pressing them into the chocolate firmly with the back of a spatula. Slide the whole thing into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate.

Once the chocolate has set, bring it back to room temperature before breaking it up. Use a big sharp knife and a mallet to shatter it into bite-size pieces. (Set the knife, strike it firmly with the mallet.)

K has declared this a new Holiday Tradition. I think she just really likes the fact that when you’re done, there’s a pile of toffee and chocolate and nut bits for munching.

Later in the week, I plan on a return to last year’s gingersnaps. After I hit the grocery store.

Ah, magic is afoot.

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