Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mom's Famous Toffee

If you knew us back in the day, this is the stuff Mom used to give out in cute tins at Christmas time! You know she loved you if you got the toffee because she hated the process of making candy of any type. I, thankfully, adore it! We lost the recipe for a couple of years; so, what's here is a tried and true version I adapted based on what we remembered of the old recipe and a compilation of traditional toffee techniques. Word of warning if this is your first time making toffee or candy - use half the heat recommendation that is listed here. That way, it's less likely you'll make the typical first-timers mistake of burning the sugar. I, in fact, use only low-to-medium heat EVERY time I make this because I tend to get distracted, lol. Enjoy!

2 C. Butter
2 C. White sugar
1/4 t. Salt
2 Bags Semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. Almonds (or other; I actually use a pecan and salted almond mix; finely chopped or ground)

Equipment: Cookie sheet, large saucepan, wax paper
  • Bring butter, sugar, and salt to boil over medium heat (low-to-medium is best if you can't watch it every second)
  • Continue cooking mixture until it turns a golden amber color; technically, it's 285 degrees on a candy thermometer
  • While the mixture cooks, line your cookie sheet with wax paper and coat paper and pan with Pam
  • Once desired color/temp is achieved, pour the mixture into the cookie sheet and spread to the corners
  • Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the toffee; allow to sit for 2 minutes or so until they are melted enough to spread gently with a spatula
  • Cover toffee completely with the layer of chocolate chips; sprinkle desired nuts over the top of the candy
  • Allow to refrigerate for an hour or so, until chocolate is hardened
  • Break into pieces and enjoy! Keep refrigerated to prevent melting.

Handmade Ricotta Gnocci

Gnocci is my favorite of the classic Italian pastas, and depending on which part of the boot you prefer, you can make a traditional version on your own using either potatoes or ricotta as the base. I prefer the ricotta versions because they are lighter overall. Not to mention you can avoid all the peeling, cubing, boiling, etc. involved in making the potato-based gnocci. Lastly, I typically cut this recipe in half (serves 4 to 6 when halved) since it produces so much.

2 C. Ricotta (whole milk)
2 Eggs (lightly beaten)
1 C. Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
1/4 t. Nutmeg
1 1/4 C. Flour

Equipment: Plenty of counter space, wax paper, large pot
  • Mix all ingredients together. HINT: I think this is a tad better if you drain the ricotta
  • Check the texture; it should be damp and slightly sticky, though not gummy or messy
  • If it's still too wet, add flour 1 T. at a time until desired texture is achieved
  • Refrigerate dough for 10 to 15 minutes
  • Take sections of dough and, on a floured surface, roll them into thin logs
  • Before you cut the dough, begin boiling salted water in a large pot in prep for cooking the gnocci
  • Cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares (or smaller/larger if you prefer)
  • Now is your chance to make the gnocci pretty! Using the tines of a fork, press the pattern of your choice into the pieces of gnocci. Or skip this step altogether if you wish.
  • In small batches, cook the gnocci in your boiling salted water. Boil each batch for about 5 minutes, or until desired firmness is achieved.
The dough will freeze well prior to cooking, if desired. Adapted from our friends at TheKitchn. Ciao!

Brown Butter Balsamic Reduction

Simply divine. And so, so easy. Just tried this over handmade gnocci, and it was delish. It's intended as a light topper to tortellini or ravioli.

6 T. Butter (unsalted)
1 Clove Garlic
1 1/2 T. Balsamic vinegar (if you prefer a milder sauce, cut to 3/4 T.)
1/2 t. Salt
1/4 t. Pepper

1/3 C. Walnuts (or other, finely chopped)
1/2 C. Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (or other, grated)

Equipment: skillet, ultra sharp knife

  • Over medium heat, brown butter and garlic in skillet until the mixture is golden brown
  • Drain off the butter; throw away the garlic
  • Let cool for a minute or two; add the balsamic, salt, and pepper
  • Add pasta of your choice to the skillet
  • Serve pasta and garnish with the walnuts and cheese after plating
This recipe is easy to alter for parties of one, two, or twenty! Adapted from one of our favorite blogs, Love And Olive Oil.