My friend Sarah has started an amazing project that honors storytelling through family recipes and the legacy of home cooking. I don’t have a history of family recipes, or any fond memories of cooking with my mother or grandmother. My Mom hates to cook, and my Nana wasn’t a big fan either. I love to eat, though, so learning to cook was important to me. Starting with eggs, which might be the most common first dish, and then pasta sauce, and now I can cook just about anything.
One of the first things I ever tried to cook from a recipe was peanut brittle. We didn’t have a candy thermometer, so my candy didn’t turn out, and I actually burned myself quite badly on the molten sugar. The perils of being a latchkey kid.
I educated myself on the fundamentals (my jam) and eventually became a pretty darn good cook. And I’ve tried to pass my love of good food and cooking onto my kids. One of our favorite traditions is making candy for the Holidays. My kids are grown now, and their schedules are busy, but every year we get together to make the most delicious toffee you’ve ever tasted.
The recipe we use is adapted from one found in the same cookbook as that infamous peanut brittle of my youth, a book that’s been in my family since I was a child. The original recipe makes a softer toffee, not quite chewy, not quite brittle, and very buttery. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it to make a candy that’s very similar to See’s California brittle.
Making candy isn’t as hard as you might think. It requires time and patience, and a candy thermometer, but it’s pretty straight forward. Put everything in a heavy pot and carefully stir until it reaches temperature. Just make sure you have everything in place before you start, because once it gets going, it needs your undivided attention.
Go ahead and give it a try! It’s fun and when you’re done, you have yummy candy. I would strongly encourage you to make more than you think you’ll need, because it makes a delightful gift.
Shadoan’s Famous Toffee
(makes 1 pound)
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1/4 cup of cream or evaporated milk
- 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chocolate chips
Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. mix in cream. sugar, and almonds. Insert candy thermometer and cook uncovered until sugar dissolves. Gently stir occasionally, but don’t mix in any crystal which may form on the side of the pot. Once the sugar melts, stop stirring, but occasionally run your spoon across the bottom of the pot until the thermometer reaches 280° F. Remove from heat and let bubbling subside, then add vanilla, stirring only to blend. Pour onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cool 10 minutes, then turn onto a parchment covered cutting board and score in 1″ squares. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. The heat of the toffee will melt them. Store in a ziplock bag, if there’s any left.
Please check out Project S.T.I.R. and consider supporting Sarah’s awesome Kickstarter campaign. The generation gap keeps widening, and we need to preserve our heirloom recipes so they’re not lost forever.