If you look at the top of my blog, you’ll see tabs labeled “Home”, “About”, and “Life List”. On Monday, facing a fit of grumpiness and I-don’t-wanna-workness, I cheered myself up by writing a list of things I really, really want to do some time in my life. And dear readers, I have just ticked off an item.
Peanut toffee. I want to learn to make all kinds of confectionery, and this sounded like the easiest. Plus, miraculously, the day after I wrote and posted my list, Pioneer Woman wrote a blog entry about toffee making. Perfect!
I have a pretty substantial list of cooked sugar disasters in my past, which is why this is so important to me. I am a very bad direction-follower, which was part of the problem, but always before there was also the lack of a candy thermometer holding me up. That nonsense about dropping a bit of the mixture into cold water and judging what stage it’s at? Doesn’t work for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown out sheet pans permanently covered in sticky, indissolvable gunk. So, please imagine my delight when, not very long ago, I realized that Sparks had brought a candy thermometer into the marriage. Or did it come in my stocking last Christmas? Hm… anyway. I have one now.
Lots of things were going through my head, as I cooked the sugar and butter together. Some of them were:
Wash down the edges of the pot with water to prevent crystallization –Martha Stewart
Including corn syrup in the mixture gets fructose molecules between the sucrose molecules, preventing the mixture from crystallizing –Alton Brown
Hot caramel is super super hot, so don’t get it on your skin –Jamie Oliver
In the end, everything was fine. There was no crystallization (I think?) and no burns. The sugar cooked a treat and the toffee set up into a hard, crumbly mass. Sugar theory tells me that had I cooked it a little less I’d have ended up with soft toffee; a little more and I’d have gotten hard, crackly toffee. I rather like the consistency the way it is now, though.
There is only one thing about the recipe I’d change: the toffee came out greasy to the touch, and actually had little pools of fat on top of it as it cooled. I think the recipe could use perhaps 3/4 of the butter called for and still be just as good.
I am so proud of myself, though. That’s a demon slain.