Posts tagged candy
Thursday, December 24, 2009

orangettes

orangettes

Well, it’s Christmas Eve. And when they say “not a creature was stirring” they really do mean it. The subways this morning were empty, almost abandoned. On my way to work, the city streets were quiet, and the air just hung still. For the first time in a long time, we have snow in New York on Christmas. It feels very appropriate.

bright, pretty oranges

I don’t care what anyone says, but I’ve been listening to holiday music since Thanksgiving ended. I can’t help myself. I also can’t get enough of these orangettes; I’ve been eating them as fast as I’ve been making them, which poses a problem since I was planning to give them away as gifts. Come January 1, I’ll have to draft some resolutions: and eating fewer sweets will certainly be one of them.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

sugar-and-spice candied nuts

sweet & spicy nuts

Last year I got these as a gift from Deb who gave me a generous, pretty jar filled to the brim with these nuts. Not half an hour later, the jar was empty and I was peering inside it trying to figure out who ate all the nuts. Certainly, I couldn’t have done it in thirty minutes’ time. I even stuck my finger in the jar trying to pick up all the sweet bits and lick them off. It was better than nothing, but still, the nuts were gone and I had to face the music: portion control – epic fail.

sweet & spicy nuts

A week later, I sat my physician’s with a fever and found the recipe in a November issue of the New York Magazine. When the nurse called out my name, I, flustered and achy, accidentally (I swear!) shoved the magazine into my oversized bag, and thus brought it home at the end of the day. I figured the recipe called out to me so much, that maybe, subconsciously, I intended for this issue to be mine. I clipped the recipe and it promptly got lost in my towering recipe pile where it stayed lost until I moved to Brooklyn.

sweet & spicy nuts

A few months later, I was sitting at Hill Country and eating brisket. And ribs. And some serious sides. And drinking a beer. But I digress. Not a half an hour after the brisket was placed in front of me, it was gone. And I was, you guessed it, licking my fingers once again. Ladylike? Who, me? Believe it or not, my parents did raise me with table manners and taught me things like how to use a fork and knife, keeping elbows off the table, and not talking with a full mouth, just to name a few. And yet, here I was, licking my fingers. In public.

sweet & spicy nuts

I suspect my lapse in manners isn’t entirely my fault. I hold Elizabeth Karmel, the executive chef at Hill Country and creator of these nuts, partly responsible. Her food has a certain power over me (and I suspect over logs of others as also) in that I am compelled, whenever in the presence of her food, to lick my fingers and the plate the food came on. I consider it a very good thing, good, ladylike manners aside, that someone can consistently put out food that makes your forget your surroundings and it’s just you and your dinner. [Pan camera Matrix-style 360 degrees around you and the plate.]

sweet & spicy nuts

Let me be clear – these make an awesome holiday gift, be it Christmas or Hannukah (totally belated, I know, but I’m a delinquent gift-giver!), or any other holiday for that matter. And as an added bonus, during this crazy-busy holiday time when we constantly feel two steps behind, these nuts are also a cinch to make, requiring mere minutes of hands-on time and just a quick peek in the oven to stir and rotate your baking sheets. What comes out of the oven is so good, that I teetered on keeping these to myself instead of giving them away. But ‘tis the gift-giving season and I like presenting people with tiny cellophane bags with little red bows.

sweet & spicy nuts

Not that I haven’t ripped open a few for myself. I would never!

sweet & spicy nuts

Continue reading sugar-and-spice candied nuts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

cashew brittle

salty cashew brittle

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.

salty cashew brittle

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.

salty cashew brittle

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.

salty cashew brittle

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.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

spicy marshmallows

spicy marshmallow gingebread men

I’ve never been much of a marshmallow person. Never one to put them in my hot cocoa, never one to make that traditional sweet potato dish with the marshmallow topping. On camping trips, I flirted with smores, but the only attractive marshmallow part was the singed sides carefully tucked between pieces of chocolate and graham cracker.

While in middle school, I joined the Girls Scouts and in one of our numerous activity/bonding sessions which included sewing on button and singing campfire songs (just a few of the reasons that convinced me I could never make it as a sorority sister) we made peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. These sandwiches made me gag and even though Fluff is made in the town where my parents live and I grew up, I could not love it then and I cannot love it now.

spicy marshmallowsspicy marshmallows
spicy marshmallowsspicy marshmallows

Through years, I carefully avoided marshmallows in my food. The packaged ones held zero appeal to me. And I was never tempted to give handmade ones a go. Certainly, they looked tempting enough, like billowy clouds in myriad of stunning pastel colors, magical in their shiny cellophane. But I just assumed it was all a trick – and that when I bit into them, I’d find the same disappointment of their mass-produced cousins.

Boy, was I wrong. And I’ve got some lost time to make up for. A homemade marshmallow is the kind of thing that makes you forget your troubles, carries you to a magical place. It is like tasting a little flavored cloud, so impossibly airy and light, so soft and sweet. Nothing could possibly stop you from smiling when you bite into one of these things. Any bad day is instantly brightened with one of these.

spicy marshmallows in their role as gingerbread men

But beware, if you are a packaged marshmallow lover, this might ruin you forever. You might just have to make them from scratch from this day on, because one bite – and you could be goner. For me, I know that these will be made over and over, dropped in cocoa, eaten with abandon on their own, or, sneakily added to a certain soup which will make an appearance tomorrow.

Continue reading spicy marshmallows.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

truffles with cayenne pepper

temptation with cayenne

After I graduated college, I set off, with a friend in tow, to backpack through as much of France as five weeks allowed us. I was armed with a few changes of clothes, a Lonely Planet guide, a little cash, a mighty credit card (and it was all worth it!) and an appetite that was determined to fit as many foodstuffs into my stomach as possible. Whereas my friend might have been on a cultural expedition, I was on a gastronomical one. Foie gras, baguettes, unpasteurized cheese, wine, raw seafood and sausisson sec – all these were to be consumed in massive quantities, not to mention other things like pain au chocolat, cassoulet, boudin noir and the famous Marseille soupe de poissons.

It never occurred to me to include chocolate in the mix. I was always a spotty chocolate eater. Whenever I was home, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. Same went for any Hershey’s or Nestlé’s around. I thought Godiva’s are quite nice, but haven’t had enough to develop my palette, and I always seemed to be picking out the dark chocolate ones, leaving the milk and the white chocolates without much attention.

Something, for me, was missing in chocolate. Some necessary hue of flavor. And I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, it now makes perfect sense.

I think it was somewhere in Nantes or La Rochelle that my friend and I wandered around a farmer’s market. In France, these things are so prevalent that were I to reside there, I’d never shop for produce in a store. Along the fruit and vegetable vendors, we spied a little chocolate stand. Among the bon bons and the patisserie were sheets of dark chocolate with bright red swirls – it was chocolate with cayenne pepper, something I’ve never tasted nor heard of.

Naturally, it was the thing we bought and tried. And then my chocolate world flipped on itself and was never to be the same. I instantly realized what was missing from chocolate for me, was a flavor that was going to intensify the complexity of chocolate itself. In this case, the cayenne pepper gave the bitterness more depth and, in a strange way, added a little sweetness all the while warming up my throat. It was so good, in fact, that I ate an entire sheet we bought, licking my fingers afterwards. In my broken French, I chatted with the vendor hailing the cayenne as the greatest thing to happen to chocolate. He agreed. We parted with him gifting me and my friend more of the spice-filled goodness.

After I moved to New York and got my bearings, I quickly figured out the artisanal chocolatiers, making sure to sample each one’s work, and without fail, try the spicy versions of their creations. Among the mix were Katrina Markoff’s Vosges chocolates – a store so pretty it made me want to have everything in aubergine. And I’ve stayed a loyal fan through the years, sampling all her whimsical creations. So when I spied her truffle recipe in Bon Appetit this month, I was on a mission – to make cayenne spiced truffles.

Truffles

Ah, but I’m waxing poetic and lengthy with this post. It’s just that this is chocolate, people! And good quality too. Yes, I know, the cost might sound prohibitive, but the high end chocolate makes all the difference in making the proper ganache. Also, what if you hate cayenne? Can’t you then, try something else? Well, absolutely – create new flavors, see what suits you best. I think my next flavors will be lime-basil, earl grey tea, and vanilla-black sesame. Just be sure to use good quality chocolate, like Scharffen Berger, or Vosges. You’ll thank me later.

The truffles are not difficult to make, but it’s a very time consuming process. Make the ganache, then chill it. Roll the truffles, then chill those too. Then you have an option of dipping in melted chocolate (chilling that too) before rolling in anything from unsweetened cocoa powder (my pick) or chopped nuts, seeds, and so on. And then putting them back in the fridge. Finding those little cups for the truffles was not an easy feat. Luckily, my boyfriend spied some in his pantry and kindly shared.

32 pieces of heaven

Some recipes call for piping the ganache through, some ask for latex gloves for rolling. I didn’t have either at my reach, so I did everything by hand, periodically dipping my hands into a bowl of iced water (it’s not pleasant, I warn you) to keep them cold and prevent from making the chocolate. Lastly, I find it’s easier to knead the ganache with one hand before rolling it into a ball, or shape of your liking with both hands. If you’re imitating Maison du Chocolat, your truffles will be slightly potato-shaped. Otherwise, it’s a lumpy sphere for you – the classical truffle shape.

Whatever flavor and shape you use, these will, undoubtedly, add sparkle and zest to any holiday table. You should try to consume them within 8-9 days of the creation though – fresh ingredients only last so long.

While the Radish is off to a little sojourn in the Hamptons, I’ll be cooking there as well, and depending on internet access, try to post there too. Should I be cut off from all things online-related, I wish you all a very Happy New Year full of champagne and soirees!

Continue reading truffles with cayenne pepper.