Archive for the ‘Candy and Fudge’ Category

Ballpark Food III: Cracker Jack

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

 
Today’s tribute to baseball food falls on the 85th birthday of Yogi Berra, the colorful player and manager whose propensity for malapropisms has made him the Sam Goldwyn of Baseball.
 
My favorite, of course, is food related: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Happy Birthday, Mr. Berra!
 
As a chanteuse I can’t do a series on ballpark food without alluding to baseball’s signature song, the 1908 hit “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
 
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
 
Historians make much of the fact that neither the lyricist, Jack Norworth, nor the composer, Albert Von Tilzer, had ever attended a baseball game when they came up with the song.
 
I’ve never seen a professional baseball game in person, but I still understand the place of the sport in American culture—and clearly so did Norworth and Von Tilzer.
 

Nowadays few Americans recall that the song has verses. Here they are as they appeared in the 1908 sheet music (along with the more famous chorus, of course!) in an early Edison cylinder recording.

 
Cracker Jack predated the song and this recording, making its mass-market debut in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (It was then called “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts,” not receiving its name for a few more years.)
 
I love caramel corn—and CJ is nothing but caramel corn with a hint of molasses.
 
I’m afraid you’ll have to provide your own prizes……..
 
 
 
Ingredients:
 
2 quarts freshly popped popcorn
1 cup roasted shelled peanuts
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, VERY firmly packed
5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 generous tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Mix together the popcorn and peanuts and place them on a large jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) in the preheated oven.
 
In a small saucepan combine the remaining ingredients. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid reaches about 260 degrees. It should form a definite but pliable ball when inserted into cold water.
 
Remove the popcorn and peanuts from the oven. Quickly but gently pour the caramel mixture over them and stir. Return the pan to the oven.

Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes and making sure that all of the solid material is covered with the coating. If it starts to stick to the pan earlier, remove it from the oven; you’re aiming for Cracker Jack, not peanut/popcorn brittle!
 
When you remove the pan from the oven, transfer the Cracker Jack to sheets covered with waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.
 
Makes about 2 quarts of candy-coated popcorn with peanuts. Don’t forget to add a prize or two!
 

This 1907 Cracker Jack postcard featured President Teddy Roosevelt (Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)

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Matzo Mania

Monday, March 29th, 2010

 
Passover begins tonight. This eight-day holiday means many things to many people: the survival of the Jewish people in the book of Exodus, the overall history of Judaism, and even the last supper of Jesus.
 
For me, it’s a time to remember my Jewish relatives–particularly my grandparents, whom we always joined for Passover when I was a child.
 
As a food writer, I appreciate the way the whole holiday is structured around food. Each thing eaten at the Seder has its own meaning. In addition, the practice of eating no bread other than unleavened matzo during Passover commemorates the departure of the Jews from Egypt. Their bread didn’t have time to rise.
 
It is also a sort of penance. Eating matzo, pretty much the plainest of breads imaginable, reminds Jews of the trials of their forebears.
 
My grandmother served matzo without much adornment during Passover, occasionally sprucing it up with a little whipped cream cheese for breakfast or lunch.
 
Despite this tradition, I’m always tickled by the idea of getting a little fancier with matzo.
 
This year I have made two simple “matzo plus” dishes I’d like to share with you.
 
The first is Matzo Pizza. I got this idea from the website Kosher.com. Kosher.com’s resident chef, Jamie Geller, created a tasty standard pizza with her matzo—vegetables, cheese, tomato sauce.
 
I’m not such a fan of tomato-based pizza that I can’t wait eight days to have it. I do love asparagus, however. I’m a sucker for the asparagus pizza served in spring at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts.
 
That pizza inspired this one. Matzo will never replace yeast crusts in my kitchen year round, but during Passover (or when one is in a hurry) it makes an acceptable, crispy platform for cheese and vegetables.
 
My second recipe today is a treat I’ve enjoyed for years when made by other people, Matzo Crunch. (Beware: many call it Matzo Crack because of its highly addictive properties!)
 
Marcy Goldman of BetterBaking.com invented this confection, which I have adapted a little. I have seen it covered with nuts (pressed into the chocolate when you sprinkle the optional salt). My friend Lark Fleury even makes it during other times of year with saltine crackers.
 
Marcy maintains that you can make the crunch with margarine if you keep kosher and want to eat it with meat. I think the butter adds so much flavor that I would advise you NOT to try the margarine. Just don’t eat the crunch with a meat meal!
 
Whenever and however you make it, I advise you to make sure that you have lots of people to whom you can give the crunch. It really is addictive—and very, very rich. I love to make it—and I love to get it out of the house FAST.
 
Happy Passover……
 
 

Springtime Matzo Pizza

 
Ingredients:
 
10 thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
a splash of extra-virgin olive oil
3 basil leaves, torn into pieces
a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup pitted ripe olives, cut into small rings
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1-1/2 matzos (the whole matzo should be halved for easier serving so that you have three halves)
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly oil the foil.
 
Sauté the asparagus in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
 
Stir in the basil, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest; then toss in the ripe olives and feta.
 
Place the three halves of matzo on the prepared cookie sheet, making sure that they fit together as well as possible. Sprinkle most of the mozzarella cheese on top of the matzo.
 
Spread the asparagus mixture over the cheese, and top with a little more mozzarella. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts nicely.
 

Serves 1 for dinner or 2 to 3 for lunch.

 

 
Ingredients:
 
6 pieces matzo, broken into several strips each
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, white, or some of each—even milk if you like, and I like)
coarse sea salt for sprinkling (optional but yummy)
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with aluminum foil, and place parchment paper or silicone mats over the foil. Place the pieces of matzo on top.
 
In a medium saucepan combine the butter and brown sugar. Bring them to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
 
Spoon the sugar mixture over the matzo, spreading it with a spatula to cover the matzo as well as you can. Bake for 15 minutes.
 
Remove the matzo from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. After 5 minutes, spread the chocolate with a knife. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top if you wish for additional crunch and flavor.
 

Allow the crunch to cool; then break it into more pieces. Makes about 40 small pieces. Don’t forget to give most of them away!

 

 

 

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Café au Lait Fudge

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

coffeefudgeweb

 
I recently mused on these pages about the joys of making (and sharing) fudge, particularly at this time of year. I concluded with a chocolate fudge recipe.
 
Fudge isn’t always chocolate, however. I like to make a number of flavors–penuche (a brown-sugar confection), peanut butter, divinity … and this coffee fudge. It’s definitely more sophisticated than its chocolate country cousin.
 
I like to make it with a strong coffee such as Medaglia D’Oro Caffé Espresso. You may of course use any brand or flavor of instant coffee you like, including (gasp!) hazelnut coffee or some odd substance like that.
 
The end product tastes like a particularly rich coffee milk shake.
 
I sent some as a gift to my friend Diana. She reports that her husband Sam inserted a piece of the fudge and a pat of butter into half an acorn squash before cooking it one evening, “and the result was delicious.”
 
Obviously, I have come up with a versatile confection!
 
The Fudge
 
Ingredients:
 
2 tablespoons instant coffee
3 cups sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup milk
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the coffee, sugar, and salt in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan, and stir in the cream, corn syrup, and milk. Place the pan over low to medium heat.
 
Stir the mixture constantly until it comes to a boil; then cover it for a minute or two to wash down the sides of the pan. Uncover the mixture, and cook it, without stirring, until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees). Remove from heat.
 
Add the butter and the vanilla, and let the mixture cool for a few minutes without stirring it (don’t let it get cooler than lukewarm; optimally, it should be a bit warmer than that).
 
Beat the warm fudge until it becomes creamy and thickens slightly–in other words until it begins to seem fudgy. Quickly pour it into a greased 8-by-8-inch pan, and let it cool. This recipe makes about 2 dozen pieces of fudge.
  
Naturally, I had to try A LITTLE piece of fudge myself!

Naturally, I had to try A LITTLE piece of fudge myself!

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Fudge and Friendship

Friday, December 11th, 2009

chocolate fudge web

 
I love to cook, but I don’t love cooking that involves a lot of work. I seldom make a recipe that takes more than an hour or so to prepare. I figure I have better things to do with my time than linger in the kitchen–like watching reruns of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV.
 
One exception to this “no fuss, no lingering” rule is a culinary form perfectly suited to the winter months–candy making. In this mode of food preparation, taking your time is the whole point.
 
When I think of making candy I picture cool, crisp nights and soft, powdery snow. I also think of friendship. Candy is best made with others.
 
I grew up in a candy-making household. When I was little my mother frequently organized taffy pulls for my birthday, which fell (and still falls) at this time of year. Carefully supervised taffy tugging kept small hands busy and provided treats for party guests to take home.
 
During my teenage years I spent what now seems like hundreds of happy hours with friends gathered around the stove waiting for fudge to reach the soft-ball stage. As we watched the confection form, our friendships took on more lasting form as well.
 
Candy making has always seemed to me an ideal social tool. With its long waits and pauses, it is structured to foster conversation.
 
You don’t dare to leave the kitchen while you’re waiting for your sweets to reach just the right temperature. Instead you chat with those around you.
 
Candy making also encourages teamwork in those frenetic moments when you’re beating or pulling your treats.
 
The creation of confections is a delightful ritual with its own pace. Somehow even in its busiest moments it seems to epitomize leisure.
 
Today as an adult I still relish making candy with my family members and friends–and with my friends’ spouses and children.
 
The ritual fills winter evenings with warmth and conversation.
 
It even takes advantage of the cold weather: one of the quickest ways to cool candy to the right temperature is to stick your pan outside (well covered to discourage animals from sampling) in the December air.
 
This week I made fudge to send to friends in far-away places. One recipe I used, for a basic chocolate fudge, appears below.
 
Before we get to it, however, here are a few candy-making hints:
 
1. Testing candy by hand (to see whether it makes the appropriate type of ball in cold water) is great, but I like to use a candy thermometer as well just to be certain. If your candy comes out a congealed mess, chances are you need a new thermometer; they don’t last forever.
 
2. Always use a wooden spoon to beat fudge. And really beat your fudge hard. My grandfather, whose only culinary accomplishment was fudge-making (unless you count mixing Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Manhattans as cooking!), always said that the secret of good fudge was in the beating.
 
3. Aim for relatively dry weather; candy forms best when the air isn’t too humid.
 
4. Be sure to invite a sizeable crowd to share in your candy creation. Not only will you have livelier conversation and easier labor; you’ll also end up with fewer calories ingested by any one candy maker. Just make sure that someone is delegated to keep an eye on the candy thermometer while everyone else talks.
 
5. Never try to rush your candy. It will be done when it is good and ready! Relax, and concentrate on the friendships simmering around your stove.
 

Your Basic Chocolate Fudge
 
Ingredients:
 
3/4 cup rich milk (milk with cream added or half & half)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, and butter the foil.
 
Place the milk in a medium saucepan, and heat it until it is warm. Stir in the sugar, salt, chocolate, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring.
 
Cover the fudge and cook it for at least 1 minute over medium heat (watch to keep the pot from boiling over) to absorb any sugar crystals that are on the sides of the pan.
 
Uncover, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees). This could happen fairly quickly (it did the last time I made this fudge) so watch the pot!
 
Remove the fudge from the heat, place the butter and vanilla on top, and cool without stirring until the candy is lukewarm (about 110 degrees).
 
At this point, beat the fudge until JUST starts to thicken, and pour it into the pan. (Be careful, or it will get too thick!) Sprinkle with festive sprinkles if desired. Cool and cut into squares.
 
Makes about 16 pieces.
 
 
This week my companion in fudge making was my mother--always good company in the kitchen!

This week my companion in fudge making was my mother--always good company in the kitchen!

 

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Peanut Butter Easter Eggs

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

eggsweb1

My college roommate Kelly Boyd used to call Reese’s peanut butter confections “staples” of our pantry. Unfortunately for my waistline, she had a point.

I don’t know what made Mr. Reese decide in 1928 to put peanut butter together with chocolate, but I have always been glad he did. As a pairing it’s right up there with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, dogs and kids, and friends and cooking. The cups make great Easter eggs as well.

Here is a homemade (and truly delicious) version of this classic treat.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

about 1 pound chocolate—milk, semi-sweet, white, or a combination (you may swirl them together as we did in the photo)

Instructions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer combine the peanut butter, graham-cracker crumbs, and sugars. Beat until well blended. Carefully shape this dough into 16 or so small egg-shaped pieces (it will be sticky!). Place the pieces in wax paper and freeze them for at least 1 hour but no more than 2.

When you are ready to complete the process, put the chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. Melt it, stirring frequently. Remove it from the heat.

Dip the eggs in the chocolate, and place them on wax paper or a silicone mat to harden (this will take several hours—be patient!).

Makes about 16 irresistible eggs. Keep them from getting too warm, and try to eat them within 48 hours. My family had no trouble doing this!

eastercard