It dawned on me this weekend that Christmas is but a week away. A week. That’s seven days to be exact. Because that’s what a week is: seven days. And I had yet to start my holiday shopping. Talk about leaving things until the very last minute. And this is so unlike me, to procrastinate like this, I’m usually way ahead of schedule – I start planning Thanksgiving in July! But this year, I’ve been remiss. There’s a fatigue that’s been slowly setting in for the last few months and, somehow, I barely have enough energy for work and this lovely space here. But holidays? Presents? I am overwhelmed just thinking about it.
Truthfully, I can’t wait to turn the corner with 2010. I am itching to get the new year under way. To think of how emotionally wrought this year has been, dealing with death and cancer in the family, just to name a few things, I’m hoping that 2010 really turns around. It has to, right? Adding to that, 2009 carried with it the reverberations of markets’ turmoil of 2008 – which has been emotionally draining as well. So is it any wonder that I now wake up at 3:30am unable to go back to sleep only to hit a wall by 10am later in the morning? That tropical umbrella drink with my name on it is slightly over a week away, but it cannot come soon enough. I’m ready for some sun, sand and friends.
But what though this year brought its fair share of stresses; it delivered beautifully in the friends department. I have met and gotten to know some truly lovely people, and as result, my world is richer, brighter and I’m evermore grateful for these blessing in my life. They are my silver linings this year. And no matter how stressful things got this year, they were my safety net, letting me know that if I fell, they would, indeed, catch me.
So it might sound silly, but I can’t think of anything more sincere than handmade thank you gifts this season. I feel like the last couple of years, as we watched our 401k plans plummet, have really reminded us of truly valuable things: that money and physical goods can come and go, but our family and friends are the things that mean something, everything. And so for the next three days, you will see my handmade gifts unveiled here one by one. First up – the salty cashew brittle, courtesy of Karen DeMasco.
This brittle has been floating around for a few years. I’m oftentimes not the brightest star and hadn’t realized that the recipe I used from “The Craft of Baking” was, essentially, the same recipe seen here and here. Oh and also here (I had made it and didn’t even realize it). Which should tell you just how slow I can be sometimes. But no matter. This is good, gift-worthy, indulgent. It’s the kind of thing you want to share with your friends because it’s a little decadent and fabulously festive. Simple and straightforward, you will spend half an hour on this baby and look like candy-maker extraordinaire. Decadence and simplicity in one? I’ll take some in a heartbeat.
from Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking
Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups sugar
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) salted roasted cashews
1. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray: set it aside.
2. Combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Stir together so that all of the sugar is wet.
Cook the mixture over high heat without stirring until it turns a dark amber color, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Carefully whisk in the baking soda, followed by the salt; the caramel will rise and bubble. Using a wooden or metals spoon, fold in the cashews.
Pour the brittle onto the prepared baking sheet, and using the back of the spoon, spread i out into a layer about 1/2 inch thick Let it cool completely. Break the brittle into bite-size pieces, using a mallet or the back of a heavy knife.
The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
When you pour your brittle mixture out, after you stir the nuts in, you must work quickly. Don’t let that send you into a tizzy. Instead, warm the baking tray onto which you will pour the caramel with nuts. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and warm it in the oven (at 150 degrees F) for 5 minutes or so. Pour the brittle onto the warmed sheet (lined with parchment) and spread the liquid brittle around as quickly as possible with a wooden spoon. Immediately place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the brittle and use a rolling pin to roll the brittle out to the desired thickness.