Unleavened Bread - ?
When I was a child one of the foods I tasted rarely, but rather liked, was the unleaved bread served at church during communion. Without a rising agent like baking soda or baking powder the bread is thin, dense and chewy. Depending on how long it is baked it can be doughy and chewy or less doughy and less chewy in taste.
I decided to find a recipe on the Internet for unleavened bread simply because I felt like adding it to Food Nirvana as an offbeat type of food that can taste pretty good. I modified the recipe I found, knowing that the ingredients were not quite right, nor was the preparation procedure, but I retained the basic recipe and did ingredient substitution and procedural changes that will cause the bread to be more like what I enjoyed when young.
I will try this recipe and get back to you with results and possibly additional changes.
4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup of melted butter, divided in half
2 cups of hot tap water (about 120 degrees F)
1/2 cup of sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease one or two large baking sheets with butter.
Sift the flour and salt into a large electric mixer bowl.
In a separate bowl, dissolve the sugar in the hot water.
Use a dough hook if you have one or a regular mixer beater and start the mixer on low speed and pour the liquid mixture into the flour slowly. Then slowly add 1/4 cup of the melted butter. The rest of the butter will be used for basting later.
The idea with the gradual mixing is to form a sticky dough by following the next step below.
When the dough is starts to mix well then increase the mixer speed to medium. Let the dough hook or regular beater do the kneading process for you for about three minutes, or until the dough is smooth.
Divide the dough into four pieces, and form each one into a ¼” thick rectangle by using a rolling pin, dusting the dough with flour if/as necessary to help the rolling process.
Place each dough rectangle onto the buttered baking sheet(s). Brush the tops of the rectangles with butter.
Score the dough with a sharp knife into squares about 1 ¼” on a side.
Prick the dough deeply about three or four times per square with a table fork.
Bake the dough rectangles for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, basting the tops with butter every 15 minutes.
Check for degree of doneness. If the unleavened bread is the way you want it to be then it is done baking. Remove it from the oven. Otherwise bake for an additional 15 minutes.
After the loaves have baked the additional 15 minutes, baste again with the melted butter and check for doneness.
If you want chewy unleavened bread it is definitely time to stop the baking. If you want the unleavened bread to be less chewy/crisper/darker then bake it for a final 15 minutes.
After removing the bread from the oven allow it to cool to room temperature, then store the baked rectangles sealed tightly in one gallon Ziploc® freezer bags in the deep freeze.
When ready to use it, thaw the bread and break it into small pieces along the score lines.
BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH DELIGHTS
Asparagus Frittata - ☺♥
This recipe is compliments of the Internet. I made it when our Massachusetts friends, Russ and Sue Gale visited us at camp. The recipe is excellent and you will get lots of compliments.
6 large or extra large eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 large leek, well washed and thinly sliced
2 bunches of asparagus, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cups of fresh baby spinach
Preheat the broiler and place a rack 6 inches from the flame or heating element.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl; add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Lightly scramble the eggs and set them aside.
In a large oven-safe pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat.
Add the leek. Sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Add the asparagus; sauté for 3 minutes, or until almost fully cooked.
Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper to taste.
When the spinach is almost fully wilted, spread the mixture across the bottom of the pan and pour the eggs over the top. Turn the pan while pouring so that the eggs fully cover the vegetables.
When the edges of the eggs start to separate from the sides of the pan, turn off the heat.
Place the pan under the broiler until the frittata is lightly golden and the eggs are fully set, about 5 minutes.
Immediately turn the frittata onto a large serving plate and garnish it with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Cut the frittata into slices and serve it.
Corned Beef Patties - ☺♥
My sweetheart, Peggy, told me about a recipe for excellent corned beef patties that her mom taught her to make. They are excellent and a big hit with her friends and family. Oh, yes! She made them for me and I heartily approve. Basically, the patties are made from cooked potatoes, raw green pepper pieces, julienned raw carrot pieces and corned beef. Once made they are fried in butter to a light but crisp golden brown on both sides, and they taste really good. You do want to try this recipe, for we have experimented a bit and actually improved it by combining canned corned beef with freshly cooked corn beef, which yielded excellent taste and texture.
The recipe provided below is for a fairly large batch size, so you may want to do the mixing steps in half batch quantities if you use an electric mixer with a bowl size of less than six quarts.
Ingredients: (makes 24 generous 1/3 pound patties)
3 to 4 lb. package of raw corned beef
2, 14 ounce cans of canned corned beef
4 very large or jumbo russet potatoes
2 large fresh green bell peppers
8 ounces of julienned raw carrot pieces
2 large eggs or one jumbo egg
1 to 2 tbsp. of milk
3 tbsp. of butter
1 tsp. of sea salt
1 tsp. of black pepper
2 to 3 tbsp. of butter for later frying
Cook the raw corned beef in lightly salted boiling water in a large pot for three hours, then remove it and allow it to cool a bit on a wooden cutting board to a warm temperature. Remove all fat from the corned beef using a fork and a sharp knife, cutting and scraping as necessary. Shred the defatted corned beef with the fork and knife until you have a large pile of shredded corned beef with pieces anywhere from 1" to 2" long. Set aside.
Peel and chop the potatoes and cook the pieces in the boiling water used for the corned beef, for ten minutes, then drain them in a colander and put the potato pieces into a large electric mixer bowl.
Clean and dice the green peppers into pieces about 1/2" on a side.
Mash the potatoes with the electric mixer on low and then medium speed until there are no large chunks. Note that in this and all following mixing steps that you will likely want to temporarily shut off the mixer and use a spatula to push the food down from the sides of the mixing bowl and the beater(s), to assure thorough mixing.
Add the egg(s), the milk and the butter to the mashed potatoes and continue mixing on medium speed until the mixture is well blended.
Add the salt and the pepper and continue mixing for about one minute.
Add the canned corned beef to the potato and egg mixture in 1/4 cup amounts while mixing, until all of the canned corned beef is well mixed with the other ingredients.
Add the shredded cooked corned beef to the mixing bowl gradually while mixing on low to medium low speed. Mix only until the shredded corned beef is uniformly combined with the rest of the corned beef pattie mixture.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the carrot pieces. Mix until the carrot pieces are uniformly mixed with the corned beef and potato mixture.
Repeat the above step for the green pepper pieces.
Stop the mixer and form patties by hand that are about three to four inches in diameter and about 1/3 pound in weight. It is smart to use a kitchen scale to get the proper weight before forming each pattie.
Wrap each pattie in plastic wrap and place the patties on a large cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil.
Freeze the patties in a deep freeze. At this point you can simply store the frozen wrapped patties in a plastic bag in the deep freeze, or, vacuum seal the frozen wrapped patties for longer freezer life. Return the patties to the deep freeze.
When you are ready to eat some of the patties then defrost them using a microwave oven while you are heating the butter in a large skillet on low heat.
Unwrap the thawed patties and put them into the skillet. Increase the heat to medium.
Fry the patties for about two to three minutes and then use a spatula to flip them over to fry the other side.
If you want the patties to be fried further then flip them and fry them for an addition one to two minutes on each side.
Serve the patties along with whatever else you decide to eat with them. You may want to make a few over easy fried eggs and put them on top of each pattie, and serve that combination with buttered broiled English muffins and hot fresh coffee.
Fabulous French Toast Recipes - ☺♥
This recipe collection is really four different recipes for different types of French toast. I have tried one of the fancy ones (Crème brulee) and Marie did the Bananas Foster, and they are terrific. Watch for my special instructions in the latter recipes.
Basic French Toast
3 extra large or 2 jumbo eggs
½ cup of milk
2 tbsp. of sugar
¼ tsp. of vanilla
6 slices of day old bread
6 tbsp. of butter
Fruit, syrup or confectioners sugar
Set the oven temperature at 200º F and put a saucer or small plate in the oven. It will be used to hold the French toast and to keep it warm.
Use your whisk to beat the eggs in a two quart bowl. Then add the milk, sugar and vanilla and whisk the mixture until it is well blended.
Pour the mixture into a large flat bowl or baking dish.
Melt three tbsp. butter in a large non-stick skillet on medium heat.
Soak three bread slices in the egg mixture, one at a time, turning each slice over twice to make sure that the bread absorbs the liquid on both sides. Put each slice into the skillet.
Cook the slices of bread in the melted butter on both sides on medium heat, turning over a few times until each slice is lightly browned and puffed slightly. Remove the slices to the warmed saucer or plate when done and return the saucer or plate to the oven.
Add three tbsp. butter to the skillet. Do the second batch of three slices like the first. Take the saucer or plate from the oven. Put the second batch on top of the first batch.
Serve the French toast with your favorite syrup or fruit, or dust it with confectioner’s sugar. I like to warm maple syrup in a small dish in the microwave oven before making the French toast. Then I keep it in the 200º F oven to keep it warm. The warm syrup is perfect for the warm French toast.
French toast for Bananas Foster
Bananas Foster is often associated with ice cream but here we have an interesting variety of French toast.
6 large eggs
2 tsp. of vanilla
½ cup of whipping cream
6 tbsp. of butter
8 slices of French bread, preferably a few days old
Make the batter by first whisking the eggs and the vanilla. Pour in the whipping cream and whisk until well blended.
Dip the bread slices into batter and soak thoroughly.
Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium high heat.
Place 2 slices of soaked bread at a time in the melted butter and cook each side until golden brown.
Repeat the process with the remaining slices of bread, adding more butter each time.
Serve the French toast slices with warm Bananas Foster syrup. The recipe follows.
Bananas Foster Syrup
1½ cups of good quality maple syrup
2 tbsp. of butter
4 bananas, halved and sliced lengthwise
1 tsp. of rum flavoring
Heat the syrup over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the butter and stir until the butter melts and the syrup is bubbling.
Add the bananas and heat thoroughly for a few minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the rum extract. Stir and return to very low heat to keep the syrup warm.
Oven baked Praline French toast
This recipe sounds yummy … who doesn’t like pralines?
8 slices of French bread about ¾ inch thick
1 cup of half and half or ½ cup milk and ½ cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. of sugar
2 tbsp. of Grand Marnier® or orange juice
½ tsp. of vanilla
½ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. of salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. of butter
½ cup of chopped toasted pecans
¼ cup of light brown sugar
Blend together eggs, milk, sugar, orange juice or Grand Marnier®, vanilla, nutmeg and salt in your electric mixer on low to medium speed.
Place 1/3 cup melted butter in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch oven proof glass baking dish.
Spread the melted butter evenly on the bottom of the pan/dish.
Dip the bread slices in the blended mixture by hand using a spatula, make sure they are soaked and place them into the baking dish by sliding each one from the spatula.
Pour any extra mixture over the bread slices in the baking dish evenly.
Refrigerate for several hours or over night. (You can ignore this step as long as the bread slices are soaked through)
Bake uncovered at 400º F for about 25 minutes.
While the toast is baking melt the remaining 1 tbsp. of butter and mix it with the pecans and brown sugar. Sprinkle the sugared roasted pecans over the baked French toast when it is removed from the oven.
Return the French toast to the oven and bake for additional 5 minutes.
Crème Brulee French Toast
Zowie! Each French toast recipe gets more exciting than the previous one!
½ cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tbsp. of light corn syrup
1 loaf of French bread
1½ cups of half and half
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 tsp. of Grand Marnier®
1/8 tsp. of salt
Heat the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan on medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Stir constantly while heating.
Pour the syrup into a 9 by 13 by 2 inch oven proof glass baking dish.
Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and trim the crust from each slice.
Arrange the bread in the prepared baking dish, cutting some of the bread into pieces so the entire bottom surface of the dish is covered. (Ignore this step).
Beat the eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier® and salt in a bowl using your electric mixer on medium speed. Pour the mixture over the bread. Chill, covered with plastic wrap, for 8 to 12 hours (This step is basically bullshit. The product is perfectly ready to use as soon as the bread is soaked. Do that by hand using a spatula with each slice, dipping it into the egg mixture until it is thoroughly soaked, then slip each slice off the spatula into the baking dish and finally pour any extra mixture over the bread evenly.).
Bake the French toast at 350º F on the middle oven rack for 40 minutes or until the toast is puffed and the edges are golden brown. Serve.
Smoothie - ☺♥
When you want a nourishing and refreshing breakfast drink make a Smoothie. This Smoothie recipe is compliments of my great friend, Linda Lange. I decided to put this recipe within the Food Nirvana category of Breakfast and Brunch Delights instead of within the Beverages section as it is truly a meal and not simply a beverage.
The basic idea is to blend a mixture of fresh and frozen and some liquid ingredients at high speed in a blender to create a slurry that can be drunk directly from a glass or by using a straw. Note that you can substitute some items; for example, use fresh cherries instead of cherry juice. I am considering using orange juice instead of coconut water. You may want to add additional ingredients as well. I plan to add seedless red grapes.
Fresh fruit purchased in typical supermarket quantities can be pre-processed, like hulling and cutting a pound or two of ripe strawberries, or cutting peeled ripe bananas into 1" chunks. Those cut fruit pieces can be kept separated from each other on a cookie tray and frozen in the deep freeze, and then put into plastic bags and left in the deep freeze for later use. That procedure assures that the fresh fruit will not degrade before it is used.
Makes two 12 ounce Smoothies
1/2 cup of coconut water
1/2 of a ripe banana
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen ripe strawberries
1/4 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup of cherry juice
1/4 cup of fresh or frozen pineapple tidbits
Put all of the ingredients into a blender.
Run the blender on high speed until all ingredients are completely mixed. If you have too many frozen ingredients that keep the mixture from processing properly then take one cup of the mixture and microwave it until it is melted, then add it back into the blender and resume processing.
Serve the Smoothies in two chilled 12 ounce glasses, with or without a straw in each glass. Enjoy!
CANDIES, CRÈMES, NUTS & DESSERT SAUCES:
Almond Bark - ☺♥
I like to make almond bark for Christmas and give some of it to family and close friends as a gift. A few years ago I thought that the addition of tiny pieces of maraschino cherries, both red and green, and tiny bits of pineapple, would make a pretty and festive holiday addition in the almond bark. I was right. The picture shown with this recipe does not have the fruit in it so you can't see how attractive my almond bark comes out.
I cut the fruits (each maraschino cherry was cut into eight pieces; each pineapple tidbit into four pieces) and dry the pieces briefly between paper towels to keep them from being wet. The drying avoids having the color from the fruit juice/syrup affect the appearance of the almond bark by migrating away from the fruit into the melted white chocolate surrounding it. Then I spread pieces of blanched chopped roasted almonds evenly on waxed paper on a cookie sheet, add the fruit pieces evenly all over, and then gently pour melted white chocolate over the nut and fruit pieces, to a thickness of 1/4". I let the candy cool and become firm, and I cut it into squares about 1 1/2" on a side. I store it in a sealed plastic food container with sheets of waxed paper between layers of the candy to keep it fresh.
For the 2012 Christmas season I decided to use candy molds of circular shape about two inches in diameter and about 5/16" deep. They worked very well and an unexpected benefit was the appearance of the candy after it became firm, for the underside displayed the fruit and almond pieces beautifully.
As you can see from my description of making almond bark it is very easy to do. You can use the fruit like I do or skip it and have excellent regular almond bark. You can even get fancy and use both milk chocolate and white chocolate, one after the other sets/becomes semi-firm, maintaining a total thickness of about 1/4".
The chocolate you use must be of high quality to make an excellent candy. I normally buy it online in eleven-pound blocks for about $70 to $80 plus shipping. My advice is to buy the best brands, Belgian if you can find it, like Callebaut®, or, within the USA brands like Ghirardelli®, which will be less expensive but still pretty good. In short, making almond bark or any other candy with high quality chocolate is expensive, but well worth it when you taste what you have made. Quality trumps quantity, and that is what Food Nirvana is all about.
2 lbs.of high quality white chocolate (not the Nestle%reg; white chocolate chips or similar products)
1 cup of raw almonds to be blanched, chopped, and roasted (or more to suit your preference)
1/4 cup of red maraschino cherry pieces
1/4 cup of green maraschino cherry pieces
1/4 cup of canned pineapple tidbit pieces
Set the oven temperature at 350 degrees F.
Blanch the raw almonds by putting them into a two cup Pyrex® glass measuring cup, adding water to cover the almonds, and microwaving the mixture on high power until the water boils. Drain the water, dump the almonds onto a cookie sheet, and squeeze the skins from the almonds. Discard the skins.
Chop the almonds in half using a butcher knife on a wood cutting board, then spread the almond pieces evenly on the cookie sheet (or in candy molds). Put the cookie sheet into the oven.
Roast the almonds for five minutes, then use a spatula to mix them and redistribute them on the cookie sheet. Roast for an additional five minutes and remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Let the almonds cool and then put them into a bowl.
Clean the cookie sheet and cover it with waxed paper and distribute the almond pieces evenly on the waxed paper.
Chop enough maraschino cherries of both colors into eight pieces per cherry to produce 1/4 cup, pressed down lightly, of each.
Similarly, chop enough pineapple tidbits into four pieces each to produce 1/4 cup, pressed down lightly.
Put each type of chopped fruit on a separate paper towel, spread roughly evenly across most of the towel surface.
Place a second paper towel on top of each type of fruit and press down firmly and evenly all over the paper towel surface to cause liquid in the fruit to be absorbed by the paper towels.
Distribute the pieces of each type of fruit evenly on the cookie sheet (or in candy molds), but do not let any pieces of fruit be on top of the chopped almond pieces.
Chop the white chocolate into small pieces about 1/2" on each side. Put the pieces into a 9" x 9" glass oven casserole evenly and then microwave the chocolate on full power for one minute.
Mix the chocolate pieces that remain with the chocolate that has melted, then return the casserole to the microwave oven and microwave on full power for 45 seconds.
Repeat the mixing step. If any chocolate remains unmelted then microwave again for no more than 30 seconds. Repeat the mixing and microwaving steps as necessary, for microwave ovens vary a lot in power.
Mix the chocolate well to get any remaining softened pieces to melt.
Pour the melted chocolate gently and evenly over the almond and fruit pieces on the cookie sheet (or candy molds). Then use a fork as necessary to even out the surface of the chocolate and to cover any pieces of fruit or almond that are not coated with the chocolate.
Allow the candy time to set and become firm. If you used the cookie sheet method then cut it into pieces 1 1/2" on a side. If you used candy molds simply flex them to release the candy.
Store the almond bark in a sealable container with layers of waxed paper between layers of candy.
Enjoy the candy whenever you want, and be sure to share this delight with family and friends.
Brined Nuts - ☺♥
While living in Switzerland I found myself missing good, salty fried peanuts, almonds, salty pumpkin seeds, etc. They were not easily found, at least as we had them in the USA in nut kiosks when I was young … hot and salty. The only time I found really great use of peanuts in Europe was in Paris, France, where street vendors sold the famous French burnt peanuts, which were sweet, slightly salty and only somewhat burnt, roasting on screens over small grills. They were yummy and we have nothing even remotely like them in the USA. This recipe is not about burnt peanuts for I have yet to try making them here. This recipe is about an idea I had in Switzerland for taking a variety of nuts and seeds as purchased and improving them.
Peanuts are available in many ways in the USA. There are dry roasted peanuts for health conscious people who want to avoid fats, and indeed fats are somewhat avoided by not frying the peanuts, but not a lot given the inherent fat content of peanuts … and they taste lousy. The unsalted varieties are even worse. Many canned peanuts that have been fried and salted are at best okay … few of them are what I would call yummy, and I have sampled many brands. Peanuts freshly fried and salted are rarely available, but when you can find a bar or other business that fries raw peanuts in small batches the resulting product is truly good. I know that by experience, for I do that also at home.
The peanuts I like best out of what we have commonly available commercially are the ones in shells that have been salt brined and roasted in the shell. They do have a small labor component in breaking the shells, however, and I wondered many times in the past why the nuts are not available brined in salt, roasted, without shells?
The confluence of that musing with the reality of poor nut selections in Switzerland led me to create what I wanted. I started by purchasing 500 gm packages of raw Pepitas. They were unsalted, not roasted and rather boring, so I decided to fix that problem, and my method gave such great results that I soon extended the method to include peanuts and almonds. In general, hard nuts and seeds are fine in this process, but I would not use softer nuts like pecans or walnuts.
1 lb. of raw shelled or canned fried peanuts (or almonds, pepitas, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
1 pint of water
¾ cup of Kosher salt (or any other salt … sea salt will be very good)
Preheat the oven to 300º F.
If you plan to brine almonds then it is best to blanch the almonds first and then to pinch them to remove the skins. It is unnecessary to blanch peanuts as the skins typically come off during the brining process, and if they don’t it doesn’t matter as they taste good anyway. Bitter almond skins, however, detract from the flavor.
Put the water and the salt into a one or two quart saucepan. Heat the mixture on high heat while stirring until most of the salt dissolves.
Put the nuts into the salt brine and stir well. The brine should barely cover the nuts, and if it does not then add just enough water to make that happen. Stir well.
Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Let it boil gently for about three minutes.
Remove the nuts to a cookie sheet with a slotted spoon, leaving the brine in the saucepan. You can save the brine later in a plastic container and reuse it, adding water or salt as necessary each time a batch of nuts is processed.
Spread the brined nuts around the cookie sheet so they are not touching.
Put the cookie sheet into the preheated oven for 10 minutes. This applies to peanuts or almonds or other larger nuts, but not to flat seed products.
Note that peanuts and almonds will process well by this recipe, but Pepitas, pumpkin seeds and other small or flat seeds will burn if allowed to remain in the oven for more than a few minutes per side. Check them carefully every few minutes and stir them and remove them as soon as they have a light powdery salty surface.
Stir the peanuts/almonds with the slotted spoon to promote even drying, then let them continue to bake/roast for 5 minutes.
When the nuts are dry, showing a lightly powdery salty surface, with no evident moisture remaining on the nuts or the cookie tray, remove them from the oven and spread them evenly in a large shallow bowl.
Let the hot nuts lose residual moisture for at least one hour, then put them into a Ziploc® freezer bag and seal it to keep moisture out.
Eat the nuts whenever you want. They will be crunchy, salty, delicious and not oily.
The brining process eliminated the oil from when the nuts were earlier fried by the manufacturer. If you started with raw nuts there wasn’t any excess oil to eliminate.
Butter Crunch - ☺♥
I was looking for a recipe for chocolate and almond coated Butter Crunch like what my mother used to make each Christmas. I found a likely candidate on the Internet and modified it, and I made major improvements to the directions. I am reporting back with fine results. Enough said. You want to make this delightful candy.
Yield: 48 small bars
1/2 lb. of butter plus more for greasing a baking sheet
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 1/4 cups of white sugar
2 tbsp. of light corn syrup
2 tbsp. of water
3 cups of raw whole shelled almonds
1 1/2 lbs. of very high quality milk or dark dipping chocolate (like Callebaut®)
Set the oven at 350 degrees F.
Blanch the 3 cups of raw whole almonds. Do that by putting them into a one quart glass Pyrex® measuring cup, cover them with water and microwave on high until the water boils. Drain the water from the almonds and dump them onto a baking (cookie) sheet that has a low lip/sides around the perimeter. Squeeze the skins from them by using a rolling motion of the skin around the nut while pressing the skin towards the pointed end and the skins will come off easily. Dry the almonds with a two paper towels. Discard the skins. Note that the low baking sheet lip will keep the almonds on the baking sheet during the next step.
Spread the almonds evenly over the surface of the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the almonds for five minutes. After five minutes, use a spatula to mix the almonds, turning them over and redistributing them on the baking sheet. Roast for an additional three to five minutes until the almonds have changed color from off white to very light tan. Immediately remove the baking sheet from the oven and dump the almonds onto a cool surface, like paper towels on a kitchen counter. Spread the almonds to a single thickness to have them cool to room temperature quickly.
Chop the cooled almonds with a food processor to a medium (not coarse, not fine) consistency.
Prepare a baking sheet by lightly covering the inner surface and sides of the baking sheet with a small amount of butter.
Melt the 1/2 lb. of butter in a heavy/thick bottom one or two quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the brown and white sugars, the corn syrup, and the water, and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Once the sugar dissolves, use a candy thermometer and stir and boil the toffee mixture gently on low to medium low heat until it reaches 290 degrees F. Note: Keep the bottom of the candy thermometer away from the saucepan surface while heating the toffee so that you get an accurate measure of the temperature of the toffee. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Remove the candy thermometer and place it on a wood surface to cool.
Stir in 1 cup of the chopped roasted almonds and mix quickly. Pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet — it should then be spread into an even layer about 1/4 to 5/16 inches thick by using the back of a large buttered spoon or spatula to press the toffee down in any high spots.
Let the toffee cool for about 3 minutes, then use a pizza cutter or large sharp kitchen knife to cut the toffee into thin bars about 1" by 2". These will look like small pieces, but once they are dipped in chocolate and covered with the remaining almond pieces, they will be substantially bigger. After another 2 minutes, go over the cuts again as the toffee continues to harden.
Use the food processor again to chop the remaining 2 cups of medium chopped roasted almonds into finer pieces suitable for coating a piece of candy. Pour those small almond pieces into a shallow bowl.
Cover a new cookie sheet with waxed paper. Then sprinkle some of the finer pieces of chopped almonds onto the waxed paper, covering it evenly. These almond pieces will be the nut cover for the bottom of each piece of butter crunch.
Once the toffee is cool, break it into pieces along the lines you made, and trim/cut off any jagged edges. Then store the toffee pieces in a warm place. The ideal is to put a tray of them into an oven that has a proofing cycle or regular heat setting controls that allow you to set the temperature at 100 degrees F.
Break/cut/slice the dipping chocolate into small pieces no more than 1/8 inch thick and put a cup of them into a two cup thin plastic bowl suitable for use in a microwave oven and heat the chocolate in the microwave oven for 60 seconds. Mix the partially melted chocolate pieces with a spoon. If necessary, repeat the heating for an additional 15 seconds. Mix the remaining pieces of chocolate and the melted chocolate well. Repeat only if the remaining chocolate pieces do not melt into the melted chocolate when mixed well with a fork. The idea is that you want to avoid overheating the chocolate as that will destroy it. The highest optimal temperature for using melted chocolate for dipping is only 104 degrees F. I recommend checking the temperature after mixing. If it is below 100 degrees F then microwave it for only ten seconds and mix well. Repeat if necessary to get the chocolate temperature up to at least 100 degrees F but no more than 104 degrees F.
Dip each piece of warm Butter Crunch into the melted chocolate to coat it, then place it onto the almond pieces on the cookie sheet. After all the pieces that will fit on the cookie sheet have been chocolate coated and placed, then sprinkle the tops of each piece of butter crunch liberally with the finely processed almond pieces.
Repeat the entire chocolate preparation, coating and almond piece covering process until all the toffee pieces are coated with chocolate and almond pieces, using as many wax paper covered cookie sheets as necessary.
If you have a deep freeze that can accommodate the cookie sheets then put them into the deep freeze for ten minutes to "shock" the chocolate. Otherwise refrigerate the cookie sheets for 30 minutes.
Store the Butter Crunch in an airtight container, with wax paper between layers. You may store the sealed container of Butter Crunch in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but for best taste and texture bring the Butter Crunch to room temperature before serving it.
Butter Toffee Nuts - ☺
From time to time I get in the mood for toffee coated peanuts or almonds. A few evenings ago I decided to start making this simple but tasty snack. It goes well with almost any beverage, as it is both sweet and salty. I found an Internet recipe, thought about it and made a few modifications to suit me. I am pleased with the result so I decided to share this recipe. Why pay more for something that you can make easily at home?
2 cups of blanched almonds or peanuts
1/3 cup of sugar
¾ cup of water
¼ tsp. of salt
2 tbsp. of butter
1 tsp. of vanilla
Turn the oven on and set it to 300º F.
If necessary, blanch the raw almonds or peanuts to remove the skins. To blanch, put the nuts into a saucepan and cover them with water. Then heat the water to boiling on high heat. After 30 seconds remove the saucepan from the heat and dump the nuts into a sieve and then spray them with cold water, mixing them by hand to make sure they are cool. Empty the nuts onto a plate or cookie sheet and squeeze the skins off between your finger and thumb. Discard the skins.
Add all of the ingredients into a 10” diameter non-stick skillet or a two quart non-stick saucepan.
Heat the skillet or saucepan on medium heat while mixing the contents with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils.
Reduce the heat to low and continue mixing it gently until most of the water boils off and the mixture becomes thick. This should take about five minutes. Do not let the mixture or the nuts burn. If necessary lower the heat.
Transfer the coated nuts and any extra toffee to a cookie sheet, spreading the nuts out evenly so they are only one layer thick.
Put the cookie sheet into the pre-heated 300º F oven and roast the toffee coated nuts for 15 minutes.
Stir the nuts to assure even roasting and even coating of them with the toffee.
Roast the nuts for an additional 15 minutes.
Transfer the nuts to a bowl and let them cool to room temperature.
The nuts will be best if they are allowed to lose moisture for an hour or two or even overnight. They should be crunchy inside with a thin shiny shell of sweet and slightly salty toffee all over the surface of each nut.
I have yet to try this variation but it is all about thickening the coating of toffee on the nuts. A second batch of the toffee coating is made after the first roasting of the toffee coated nuts. The second batch of toffee is heated to the soft crack stage, which is 280º F. The previously coated nuts are then put into the second batch of hot toffee, mixed, and quickly returned to the tray and spread out evenly for the second roasting cycle of only about five minutes. The double layers approach should both thicken the toffee and make it quite crunchy. I’m looking forward to trying it.
Candied Cherries - ►
In general I dislike candied fruit in anything because it has a bad texture and it is cloyingly sweet, though it is attractive. Thus, I figure I can get the best of both worlds if I create a recipe to partially candy the fruit, leaving it softer with more moisture and not as sweet than that found in commercial brands of candied fruit. I explain my favorite use of the fruit in the next paragraph where I describe how I make a festive colorful almond bark with bits of fruit in it.
I like to make almond bark for Christmas and give some of it to family and close friends as a gift. A few years ago I thought that the addition of tiny pieces of maraschino cherries, both red and green, and tiny bits of pineapple, would make a pretty and festive holiday addition in the almond bark. I was right.
All I had to do was cut the fruits (each maraschino cherry was cut into eight pieces) and dry the pieces briefly between paper towels to keep them from being wet. The drying avoided having the color from the fruit juice/syrup affect the appearance of the almond bark by migrating away from the fruit into the melted white chocolate surrounding it. Then all I had to do was spread pieces of blanched chopped roasted almonds evenly on waxed paper on a cookie sheet, add the fruit pieces evenly all over, and then gently pour melted white chocolate over the nut and fruit pieces, to a thickness of 1/4". I then let the candy cool and become firm, and then I cut it into squares about 1 1/2" on a side. I store it in a sealed plastic food container, with small sheets of waxed paper between layers of the candy.
This morning I thought about some changes/improvements to my recipe that will replace the maraschino cherries and pineapple with slightly candied versions of each. That means I considered making slightly candied fruit from either fresh or canned cherries or maraschino cherries or fresh or canned pineapple.
I am about to conduct this experiment and I have started by getting two different types of candied cherry recipes from the Internet. I will work at this until I get what I want, and then I will make my almond bark with my new version of candied fruit. It will be excellent. I will report back when I have accomplished my goal.
Internet recipe #1:
This recipe makes 8 to 9 ounces of candied cherries, starting with maraschino cherries.
1, 16-ounce jar of maraschino cherries
3/4 cup of sugar
Drain the cherries, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. (I say all the juice should be used to capture the flavor! So what if it extends the cooking time by five or ten minutes?)
Combine the reserved juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
Add the cherries, and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer for 45 minutes to one hour, until the cherries are slightly shriveled and firm to the touch. Remove from the heat, uncover the pan, and let cool completely.
When the cherries have cooled, remove them to paper toweling and pat them dry.
You can use the leftover syrup in the pan in various ways; for example, use it with champagne to make the delightful cocktail drink known as Kir Royale.
You can store the cherries in a sealed container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Internet recipe #2:
This recipe is close to what I want to create, but I also want to be able to use maraschino cherries.
Here is a recipe for making candied cherries from fresh cherries instead of using maraschino cherries. It may take a bit longer but you avoid the excessive food coloring used in maraschino cherries and you adjust the color with your own food coloring to suit yourself.
1 pound of fresh sweet or sour cherries, rinsed
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Remove the stems and pit the cherries (Use a hand held cherry pitter to make this task easy.)
If you want you can add food coloring in the next step to affect the resulting color of the cherries and syrup.
Bring the cherries, water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil in a non-reactive four quart saucepan.
Reduce the heat so the cherries are cooking at a simmer/low boil.
Cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently during the last 10 minutes of cooking to make sure the cherries are cooking evenly and not sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
Once the syrup is mostly reduced and a brilliant ruby-color (or whatever color you have created), similar to the consistency of maple syrup, remove the pan from the heat and cool the cherries to room temperature.
After the cherries are cool they can be refrigerated in the syrup in a sealed container for short term storage, or vacuum sealed and frozen for up to one year.
Note: If the above recipe was modified somewhat to only concentrate the cherry flavor somewhat instead of reducing the liquid to a syrup, and was supplemented at the end with the addition of some cornstarch, it would be a good recipe to create cherry pie filling from fresh cherries ... of most any type.
Ray's Recipe for Slightly Candied Fruit:
If I were starting with fresh cherries I would use the recipe immediately above this one. Starting with maraschino cherries presents a somewhat different set of requirements to create fruit suitable for use in my almond bark, or for that matter many other recipes.
The ingredients are identical to those of the first Internet recipe shown above. Note that you can use canned pineapple tidbits instead of cherries to create lightly candied pineapple, that can then be processed like the cherries for addition to candies or baked goods.
Use the directions of the first Internet recipe above, but limit the cooking time to 20 minutes.
If you are making a candy like almond bark then drain and wipe the cherries and cut each one into eight pieces, then spread out the pieces on a paper towel, put another paper towel on top and press lightly to remove excess syrup.
If you processed pineapple tidbits instead of cherries then cut each tidbit into four pieces and spread out the pieces on a paper towel, put another paper towel on top and press lightly to remove excess syrup.