Vanilla Taffy

I have never posted this recipe. It is a family recipe that is so special to me. It may mean nothing to anyone else – probably will not. But this is one of those handed-down recipes for something not many people make at all … and there is a story to it.

My mom made this every winter, not every Christmas because this recipe depends on the weather. There has to be low humidity and in the South that usually will only happen sometime between late December and late February. So this did grace the Christmas Eve party on occasion -yes, but there was no guarantee. It is North Florida after all. We oftentimes wore shorts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was a recipe from my mom’s mom, Daisy, and my mom would describe how Daisy made it in the winter* and then to get the taffy hard they would toss it in the snow. We never were able to do anything like that, but it is kind of cool to understand where a recipe really comes from.

To be honest, I have never seen a recipe like this. Most people, when they think of taffy, think of salt water taffy which is soft,  but this is not. We (me and the Boy) have taken to calling it crack because when you pull it right and put enough air in it, it gets opaque and, well, looks like crack – at least the kind I have seen on Cops  (read: have no practical experience in the real stuff, but from TV, I can totally see it).DD_9068

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Necessary – candy thermometer – not kidding. Necessary.

Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 266 degrees.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and stir until dissolved. Pour onto sil-pat lined baking sheet. When still hot, but cool-ish enough to pull, pull small bits in cords until opaque – you will burn at least your thumbs, but probably a couple of other fingers in the process. Twist into ribbons and lay on wax paper-lined baking sheet. When hard, break into pieces (just drop on baking sheet and see what happens) and wrap in cut waxed paper, or if you want to be fancy, wrap in pieces of parchment. We used waxed paper growing up, but I have taken a liking to parchment in the last few years.  

*They also butchered a pig each winter. Something I completely understand, but an not likely to be involved in.

2016 – Tomato Soup with Spinach and Mozzarella

“Keebler’s” Pecan Sandies

dd_1625I totally have a soft spot for pecan sandies – always have had. Over a decade ago I started making them from scratch and have never looked back. I have several recipes I like but so far my first one has been my favorite one.

This is a new recipe to try and displace my current leader.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans
Sugar for rolling

Sift together over waxed paper, flour, baking soda, cream of tartar,salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, canola oil, sugar, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat the egg in, then stir in vanilla.

Mix the flour mixture in the butter mixture. Mix in pecans. Chill for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll into sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake 10 – 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Do not over bake. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen.

~~ Now, can I compare this to the Keebler’s version of pecan sandies, probably not. That would involve buying cookies, and I just cannot rationalize doing that when there are so many more recipes to try. That said, these were good, but I still prefer my old reliable. Everyone else liked them though, so that is a good thing.

Source: http://buttercreambarbie.blogspot.com/

Best Pecan Sandies, um, ever

These pecan sandies are just that – sandy. I am just not sure that another version could take their place – nope, but I have a couple of other recipes for pecan sandies just to try. And prove to myself that these are, by far and away, the best. I have no doubt about it.dd_1607

16 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla, but pretty much as you want
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans, chopped – Renfroe’s to be sure.
Sanding sugar, for rolling

In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and 1/3 cup sugar and salt until light and fluffy.^ Add in vanilla, once again, as much as you would like. Add flour and mix, scraping the bowl down as you go. Add the pecans and mix until incorporated. Divide dough in half and form into two inch thick logs. Wrap tightly in cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Working with one log at a time, cut the dough into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake 25 – 30 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden on the edges, making sure to rotate pans half way through.# Let cool on sheet for one minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I think slice and bake cookies are dead simple, and they are. And I will say it once again, this is my go-to recipe for pecan sandies.

^ what, exactly, does that mean. Really? Not sure.

# something you should always do

Shortbread

Shortbread is an odd little cookie if you ask me. It is not sweet, much, and can be a bit difficult to work with, but I am a fan. Although it is not the first thing I would go for in the baking/cookie department. I think is pretty much amazing with tea though, I guess that is because it is a Scottish biscuit in origin. And I have to say, I do sort of mess with the general idea of shortbread – see: vanilla and sanding sugar.dd_1583

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted*
1/2 -3/4 tsp vanilla (optional, well, not really)
Sanding sugar (optional, nope, not really)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until slightly lighter in color and smooth. Sift confectioners’ sugar and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Beat with butter until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add a bit of vanilla if preferred.

Sift flour over waxed paper. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Scrape soft dough onto plastic wrap. Cover with more plastic wrap and pat until a bit thin. Rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour – it needs to be firm to the touch.**

Using flour, roll out shortbread dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters (my mom’s) or a biscuit cutter and put the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool the cookies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or whatever sugar you feel inclined to use.

Bake until the tops are golden, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

* confectioners’ sugar always needs to be sifted. It is just a given.

** I chilled overnight because I am kind of lazy that way. Well, not really. Here’s the deal – I make a dough one night and bake it later, usually the next day. It works because I can do each step – make and then bake the next day – because during the week my baking occurs after work. I also justify this by the fact that I have read that cookie dough gets better with a bit of time in the fridge. Sure – that works for me – after all I’m making cookies during the week, not just on the weekend.

I have had this recipe in my cookie binder, yes, I have that, for a long time and I think trying to find the source of this recipe when the title is only “shortbread” is nigh on impossible. So I won’t but will thank the gods that be for a pretty good recipe that I messed with just enough to make be really happy.

 

Very Special Rice Krispie Treats

I defy anyone to not like a home-made rice krispie treat. They are great, drop dead simple, and make people happy. Those of us who bake/cook do it to make people in our lives happy. These also make me happy – so a total score!dd_1562

I had an accident once with rice krispie treats. It was probably common enough, but it made for a major advancement in my recipe. I had put my unsalted butter in a sauce pan to melt before adding the (mini) marshmallows and was not paying attention. Unbeknowst to me, I had created a light version of brown butter but went ahead with the recipe – this, people, is a game changer. No shit. Game Changer. It gives the treats a nuttiness that is simply amazing.

So then I started to think what else could I do to make these simple treat special? Well, let’s see – marshmallows are vanilla flavored so why not a bit of vanilla extract while we’re doing this – gild that damn lily. Then I think I had one of the best thoughts lately (maybe ever). What does sweet food love more than salt? Um, nothing. So after the treats were in the pan, I sprinkled them with Maldon salt. Holy Hell. Yup.

So here are the particulars … based on memory because I just kind of winged it.

4 Tbs unsalted butter
10 oz-ish bag of mini marshmallows
1 Tbs vanilla extract (the really stuff, please)
5 cups rice cereal (snap, crackle, and pop, stuff – Publix brand works really well)
2 tsp Maldon salt – or your choice of sea salt, something flaky though

Spray a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with cooking spray and set aside. Melt butter in a light colored sauce pan that way you can see when it starts to get just a bit brown. Add the marshmallows and stir to start melting. When you feel in the mood add in the vanilla. Once marshmallows are melted, stir in the rice cereal and coat with marshmallows.

Dump marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and using wet hands smooth it into an even layer. Sprinkle the pan with Maldon salt.

Then – eat for breakfast because you know all the cool kids are doing it.

Italian Fresh Cream Lemon Cake

D&D_1374 I have always heard about Italian Cream Cakes, but this is my first go with one. In a way it seems like lighter version of a pound cake and I did bake this in a bundt pan. Seems to make sense in a way.

I appear to be in cake mode now. Not sure why, but that does happen to me on occasion. Kind of like being in cookie mode for the last couple of months (read: 8 months). It is odd in a way, but I guess as humans we get into a trend of sorts and just go with it. Now, it is cake – not a bad thing, at least not in my opinion. We will see how this sorts itself out. Who knows? Not me – ever.

Maybe next trend will be cupcakes (if they are not too twee). Unsure at this point. But need something to transport them in.

I brought this cake to the office this Wednesday which is when our students are there – it seemed to be a success.  It really is a light version of a pound cake. I will make it again, but I really need more lemon in it. Maybe a lemon glaze. That always seems to make things better.

2 cups plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted for sure)
7 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
zest of one lemon, grated on a microplane
1 tsp vanilla or more which is not a bad thing -kind of always do more
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Spray a bundt pan with baking spray – yeah, just over do it if your have the kind of bundt pans I have (see below).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar until light. Add the flour to the egg mixture alternating with cream. Fold in butter. zest, and vanilla.

Pour into (well) prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Testing with a wooden skewer – just to be sure. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then tump it out. Let cool for a few more minutes and dust with  confectioners’ sugar.

Notes: I just realized how many assumptions I made with the recipe – holy cow. I assumed all-purpose flour but the recipe I have did not make that clear,  and large eggs, and unsalted butter, wow could this recipe be more vague. I could have just made a huge mistake. But I am hoping I did not.

Source: An Italian in my Kitchen.com

Pan – Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan

 

Salted Crispy Oatmeal Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

I just could not help myself with this recipe. Honestly – how could I?  This, I think, is the longest title of a cookie ever – at least in my world. And there is nothing wrong with that.D&D_1352.jpg

Oatmeal means it is a “breakfast” cookie, especially when pecans (or any nut) are involved. And who knew from rice crispies? And butterscotch chips – they are always in my freezer, because you never know when they will be needed, right?  You need to be prepared – this is serious stuff, here people. Who can be caught with no butterscotch chips? Well, maybe that is just me. Okay, just me. I know.

The combination of all these relatively random things is pretty amazing.  Then again I only try one cookie in any recipe. I mean, once you have had one cookie, or maybe even some raw cookie dough (a favorite trick of mine because I really need an excuse to eat raw cookie dough), you know how the recipe works out. But not this time. Full stop. I had to have a couple of cookies because I could not stop myself, and honestly, that is very rare. Really rare. The MotH will vouch for that. Also, the office said that these were pretty frigging amazing. Which is praise indeed.  They don’t quite know that they are my recipe testers. I hope they don’t mind, because I want an honest opinion.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup rice crispies
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped pecans – Renfroes, of course
Maldon Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture a little at a time until completely mixed in. Stir in oatmeal, rice cereal, butterscotch chips, and pecans. Using a cookie scoop, arrange dough on baking sheet with a couple inches in between. Sprinkle dough balls with Maldon salt. Bake 12 minutes, turning the pan half way thru baking time.

Cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bench Notes: 3 dozen or so cookies, depending the size of your cookie scoop. I do need to figure out the size of my cookie scoop. My guess – a generous tablespoon. But I could be wrong.

This recipe seemed like such a mix of things that I really like, I made it almost as soon as I found the recipe. I even went to the store to stock up on oatmeal, which I usually have but I had made way too many variations of oatmeal cookies this fall, and buy rice cereal which I do not keep on hand, but whatever is left is going to be rice crispy treats – which I love in a stupid childish kind of way.

I’m never really sure about the sprinkled salt thing. For such a long time it seemed to be a fad that seemed silly. That is not to say I do not own any finishing salts because I do, a lot of them (and that is a completely different post), but in this recipe that salt and that crunch from the Maldon was just the thing. It was so very right.

I so want to make another batch of them right now. Yep. I do.