Thursday, November 29, 2012

English Toffee

Tonight I decided to switch it up a bit and take a break from cookies.  I made some homemade toffee.  I usually make this every year because it's a favorite of everyones around here.  It's so easy and so quick to make.  It's really just burned sugar and butter.  I'm amazed that so many candy shops charge so much money for toffee. 

I recently attended a chocolate show in Chicago and there was toffee stands everywhere, each one claiming to be the best. In my opinion it all pretty much tastes the same.  Some of the vendors used different nut toppings, some with different salts on top.  That was interesting but the toffee was pretty much the same.  I sampled a few but couldn't buy any at the show because I knew that I could do it just as easily at home.  Not to mention they were charging a fortune. 

I'm sure there are more intensive recipes out there for toffee.  I've seen some that use brown sugar or corn syrup.  I am thinking about trying one with brown sugar.  For now, I'm sticking with my tried and true recipe. 

Some toffee is very thick which I like as well.  My toffee tends to be a thin because I spread it out thinner.  My next batch is going to be a little thicker, I'll control the pour or get a smaller pan.  Like I said, it's very easy, I highly recommend you try it!

A few quick tips...use a heavy sauce pan or one with a thick bottom.  A thin bottom pan will heat up too fast on the bottom and burn.  Your toffee will end up with a burnt taste.  Use a candy thermometer.  I've never gotten good results trying to do the water test, hard ball test, etc.  I absolutely will not make toffee without my candy thermometer.  Also, resist the urge to stir constantly, stir only enough to blend the mixture.  Too much stirring will cause the toffee to take too long to reach the desired temp. 

The recipe is:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips - approx. 1 cup 
Nuts - crushed (I used walnuts) for sprinkling

1.  Melt the sugar and butter in a thick bottomed sauce pan. 

2.  Continue to cook the sugar and butter until it reaches 300° F on a candy thermometer. Stirring occassionally. 

3.  Once the butter mixture has reached 300° F, pour the mixture onto an aluminum foil or wax paper lined jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with the sides on it like this one here

4.  sprinkle the chocolate chips all over the top of the toffee.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes until the chips are melted.  Spread the melted chips over the toffee to cover.  Sprinkle with the crushed nuts. 

5.  Let cool completely.  Break into bits.  I sometimes cut with a knife while it's still slightly warm in order to get some decent squared but the toffee usually breaks up anyway.  I get a few nice squares and a lot of broken pieces. 

So that's it.  Happy Baking and please excuse the bad photo.  I used my phone for the pic and the battery is dying so the shutter seemed a bit slow.  Neverthe less, the toffee tastes great.  Now I must go and brush my teeth because I ate tasted enough to rot these little buggers right out of my head.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Key Lime Cookies

I picked up some key lime juice recently in a local supermarket to make a homemade key lime pie.  It was wonderful and very simple.  I have a bunch left over and decided to try and bake some key lime cookies. 
I found a recipe on line to try on the Mr. Food website and thought I'd give it a try.  I was suprised because Art Ginsburg, commonly known as Mr. Food recently passed away.  I can remember watching his segments on channel 7 news.  He was a food network star before we even had a food network channel. 

I had to improvise just a bit.  The recipe called out for fresh key lime juice so I substituted my store bought concentrated stuff.  It also called out for key lime zest, but I eliminated that since I didn't have any key limes in the house. 

The cookies came out moist but crispy on the edges and have a wonderful tangy lime flavor.  I got about 3 dozen so I'll have to make another batch.  I'm going to make a key lime frosting or glaze for the next batch and pretty them up a bit with sprinkles of lime zest. 

These cookies are very good and I highly recommend them.  The recipe can be found on the link above but you can also find it here

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chewy Toffee Bit Cookies

Tonight I decided to use up the last of the toffee bits I had in the cupboard.   The recipe on the back of the package seemed like the most logical recipe to try.  I’m always afraid to try a recipe that I’ve never heard of or tasted or has been recommended by someone who has actually made it.   A few years ago I was watching a television show about how some of the well-known women’s magazines sometimes enhance the recipes to make them seem more tasty and make  magazine more attractive.  The spokesperson also said that some of the recipes aren’t even really tested, that they just put them in there to make us want to buy the magazine.  Since then I’ve always been skeptical about recipes from anyone other than someone’s blog.   I figure that if the blogger took the time to make the recipe, take pictures and post their results then it must be legit.  With that being said, I can honestly say that I baked these cookies myself and they came out great.  They are moist and chewy and passed the most critical of taste testers that I know…my son.   We got our bi-monthly delivery of milk (I did it on a whim and really don’t like paying as much for a half gallon as I would for a gallon.  However, now we’re hooked and no one wants me to cancel the delivery), anyway my son grabbed a big glass of that rich and creamy milk and 4 or 5 of the fresh baked cookies and became a very happy guy.

So on to the recipe which is very much like a chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I was tempted to throw in some chips but decided against it.  I think next time I will dip ½ the cookie in melted chocolate.

Toffee Bits Cookies (taken from the back of the package).

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

3 eggs

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1-1/3 cups (8-oz.pkg) toffee pieces


1.      Heat oven to 350° F.  Lightly grease cookies sheet.

2.      Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended.  Add eggs, beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in toffee bits.

3.      Drop by heaping teaspoon onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly, remove to wire rack.  Cool completely. 

About 6 Dozen Cookies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

First Cookie Recipe of the Season

Tis the season to bake bake bake.  I love the holidays just because I can make lots of delicious cookies to share.  My plan is to try to make a differnt batch each day or every other day.  That's a lot of cookies by Christmas.  Every year I say I'm going to bake them and I make a couple of batches but never enough to actually give as gifts.  This year I'm planning to even bake some for the neighbors, well maybe only a couple of neighbors.  We really don't interact with many of the others.  We moved on to Saylor Street when my kids were already in high school.  Since they didn't grow up with any of the other kids on our street I didn't form that neighborly bond with the other moms on the block.  Add to the fact that I work outside of the house and am never home so I don't get to hang out for coffee with any of the other ladies. With that in mind, if I do give away any cookies it will probably only be giving to the people directly next door. 

My first recipe so far was an easy one.  Sugar Topped Butter Cookies.  They taste like little sugar cookies.  They have a soft inner core and a crispy top.  They're plain but good.  I think they'll be very good with coffee or hot chocolate.

Sugar Topped Butter Cookies

2 Cups Sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour (I love King Arthurs but any will do)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon butter flavored extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Cream together 1 cup of the sugar and the butter until creamy.  Add egg and continue beating until well blended.  Add the butter flavored extract.  (this is not necessary but I wanted an extra kick of butter flavor.)
In a separate bowl blend the flour and baking powder and salt.  I mix it together with a whisk or fork just to break up any lumps if there are any.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend on low until well mixed. 

Place second cup of the sugar in a small bowl.  Shape the dough into 1 inch balls.  Dip the top of each ball in water and then in the sugar.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. 

Yields about 4 - 5 dozen cookies.