First of all, Sara, I love your post! Everything--your nasty hand, pies, scarf, musings about and pictures of your boy... I'm so glad you're back with a commitment to post. I can't wait to hear more about your Thanksgiving dinner.
As my oldest sister said just the other day, "Barbara likes three kinds of music: Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Christmas carols." And lucky me, it's Christmas carol season. In my immediate family Christmas time lasts from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years. That means no Christmas decorations come out before Thanksgiving, no carols are sung and no special Christmas candy is made until Christmas time has offically begun.
And, despite the fact that our boxes of Christmas decorations haven't left the garage rafters yet, it is starting to feel like Christmas time. I forgot to pack all of my Christmas music last year so I was able to listen to Adeste Fideles first thing Friday morning. Then on Saturday I made my first batch of Toffee (pronounced toe-fee in my family--it is absolutely, absolutely not ta-fee!). This is my grandmother's recipe and it is the best candy ever. And so simple, a few ingredients gets you this:
Grandma Evelyn's Toffee
1 c. butter (real butter, please!)
1 c. sugar
3 T. water
semi-sweet chocolate chips (approx 1/3 of a bag)
chopped walnuts (about 1/2 - 1 c. -- enough to cover the top of the candy)
cookie sheet or heavy plastic food-safe tray (that won't melt)
Place butter and sugar in a large, deep, heavy skillet (a cast iron "chicken fryer" pan works great) over a medium heat. Stir continuously. The butter will melt and the sugar will dissolve (it may still seem a little grainy but the mixture will be a semi-thick butter-yellow color). Add all three tablespoons of water at once at this point. The mixture will boil and thin immediately. Keep stirring! And stirring. And stirring...until the mixture reaches 300 degrees or hard crack stage *. Note that it will seem to take forever. But right around 280-290 the temperature will shoot up. Stir furiously, pull the candy off the stove at 295ish and pour contents onto sheet/tray. Let the candy set for about five minutes - until it is still warm to the touch but has hardened somewhat. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. They'll soften/melt. Spread the chocolate and top with nuts while still warm. Cool candy in fridge (or freezer if you're in a hurry) and break into pieces to serve. Taste with caution. Addiction is common.
Optional: Spread some chopped nuts around on the tray before pouring out the candy. Almonds are really, really good.
* Here's the update - while I was writing this post last night my husband kept coming into the room, "Are you done yet? Can I use the computer yet?" (sometimes I think he's my preparation for parenthood :) and I subsequently forgot to add information about the hard crack candy stage for those who would like to make this recipe but don't have (and don't want to buy) a candy thermometer. I was going to write up my own description of how to determine if your candy has reached the hard crack stage, but then I found this very good description of The Cold Water Candy Test which reads in part:
At these temperatures, there is almost no water left in the syrup.
Drop a little of the molten syrup in cold water and it will form hard, brittle threads that break when bent.
CAUTION: To avoid burns, allow the syrup to cool in the cold water
for a few moments before touching it!
I would just add that your water needs to be really cold - like ice cold.
And yesterday, between bouts of raiding the refrigerator for one-more-piece-of-toffee-please, I started making Christmas gift bags after reading The Worsted Witch and being inspired by her post about making gift bags. I began by making stencils from the lightweight cardboard cover of the catalog Target gave me when I registered with them. Next I mixed and matched material, stencils and thread until I came up with combinations I liked. I cut out the pieces and used iron on sticky stuff (can't remember what it's called) to stick the stencil-material to the bag-material.
Finally, I zig-zag stitched the edges and sewed the top edge of the bag over to make a channel for a drawstring and then ran a seam inside along to bottom and side edge of the bag. Wa-la, gift bags.
Well, not quite wa-la. I managed to get through the sewing portion of three bags before back pain, an earthquake and the desire for more candy made me stop for now. I've got four or five more bags ready to be sewn up still. And I've yet to decide what to use for the drawstring in each bag. I've got a ball of twine that might work for some, ribbon for others, and, of course, there is always yarn...
The last bit of Christmas-time evidence is the potpourri burner I've tried to hide behind some picture frames. This is the best smelly stuff...water, orange slices, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a mini-crockpot.
Venite, venite in Bethlehem;
Venite adoremus Dominum!