saffronhare: (birch durer hare)
[personal profile] saffronhare
Last night, I was pretty darn successful in my campaign to do Mostly Nothing with my shoulder. I had other people do all the chopping for the chicken soup we assembled for tonight's dinner. Because I had more than one person helping, I got to admire the assembly of the ingredients next to the stove -- all in lovely little bowls -- over a couple of hours. Putting it together was surprisingly easy. A few months ago, I wouldn't have believed it if you'd told me I'd be putting together homemade chicken soup (with homemade stock) without glancing once at a recipe. Later today, we'll reheat it with some rice, check the seasonings (because homemade stock is much lower in salt than the store-bought stuff), and call it good.

Emboldened by this victory, I decided to engage the troops in making a first batch of toffee. KiraDeara was very excited about using the candy thermometer; I was impressed by what happens when you heat up four sticks of butter, two cups of sugar, and some vanilla. One of the college kids got home last night and asked if we were making caramel. I think the difference is that caramel uses brown sugar instead? Might look that up later. Anyway. The toffee chilled overnight and taste testers inform me this morning that it's AWESOME. Yay! When I bust up this batch into pieces later tonight, I'll have a better idea of how many batches we'll need to make for gifting and how many metric tons of butter that will take. (We try to include 6-8 servings of each item in the baskets.) I also need to figure out today *how many* gift assortments we're giving out this year. Because math.

I think I'm going to delay making cranberry bread until my shoulder is doing better, because I don't know if I can delegate that baking to anybody else. The cranberry bread is MINE, you know? We'll see.

Date: 2013-12-12 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Any tips or tricks? I made 2 batches. The first was too sticky and didn't harden, the second scorched. I'm using butter and brown sugar.

Date: 2013-12-12 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This was my first batch of toffee ever. It smelled and looked and tasted about right, but I don't have a huge frame of reference. The most I can do is tell you how we did it:

For the toffee, we used four sticks of butter and 2 cups of white sugar, plus a splash of vanilla extract. We melted the butter first, at a very low heat, and then stirred in the sugar. Very gradually, and stirring almost constantly, we heated to about 285 degrees (which was a rolling boil). After a minute or so at that temperature, we removed it from the heat and poured it onto a deep cookie sheet (which had been prepped with a layer of parchment paper).

Then, we sprinkled two cups of semisweet morsels over the top. Once those were melty, I used the rubber spatula to spread evenly across the surface, and then sprinkled pulverized almonds on top. It went into the fridge overnight. This morning, I broke off a tiny corner piece for taste testers, who said it was yummy.

All the toffee recipes I saw (in my recent, not very thorough search) used white sugar. I've used brown sugar for caramel sauces. How thick is the bottom of your saucepan? Mine's pretty heavy, but I don't know if that'd be a factor. About the only thing that's ever helped with scorching is near-constant stirring and crazy-slow increases in temperature. Good luck!
Edited Date: 2013-12-12 07:12 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-12-12 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most of the difference between caramel and toffee is temperature. You can use brown sugar or white sugar for either thing. (It's a little bit harder, IMHO, to use brown sugar for caramel, because one of the process indicators you are looking for is "when the sugar turns a rich golden brown"... which is right when you put it in the pot, if it's brown sugar.)

Date: 2013-12-12 07:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's a good point. I'm always plagued by doubt when judgment of color is part of the recipe, which is why I adore having that candy thermometer. Is it golden now? How about now? Or was it at the ideal level of goldenness about 45 seconds ago and now I've wasted a pound of butter?

Date: 2013-12-12 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yep, difference is between granulated sugar and brown sugar.

"Caramel is typically made with granulated sugar, milk and/or cream, butter, and sometimes vanilla. The primary flavors of caramel are the sugar and milk/cream.

Butterscotch on the other hand is made with brown sugar. It's primary flavors are brown sugar and butter. It typically also contains milk/cream but they are not as prominent as caramel.

Toffee is butterscotch that has been cooked to the hard-crack stage.

There is no liquor in butterscotch. (ED by Susi: why not?)

There is a lot of leeway in what things get called caramel, butterscotch, and toffee. The important differences to keep in mind are that caramel is made with granulated sugar, whereas toffee and butterscotch are made with brown sugar and much more butter."

Date: 2013-12-12 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I suspect booze would affect the boiling temperature?

Date: 2013-12-12 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I suspect you're right. I haven't tried it myself but it's on my to-do list.

Rum toffee? mmmmmm....

Date: 2013-12-12 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I believe the "levels" of candy and the temps to achieve them are printed on the strip of paper inside the actual thermometer. I've never had a candy thermometer that didn't have that.

And you're wrong. The cranberry bread is MINE. :-)

Date: 2013-12-12 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes. The candy thermometer has degrees and also "hard crack" written on it (along with other levels, but "hard crack" is my favorite).


Date: 2013-12-13 02:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Soft crack" has its own charm, though.
Edited Date: 2013-12-13 02:53 am (UTC)


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