Chocolate Matzo Toffee

matzo chocolate toffee with almonds

Jeff hates matzo. Not surprising, really, since there isn’t much to like about matzo. Dry and bland, matzo isn’t meant to be tasty. And yet, we do just about everything we can to make it palatable. Never mind that enjoying it really sort of defeats the purpose, we’re pretty determined to make matzo delicious. And frankly, with enough butter, sugar and chocolate, just about anything is delicious – even matzo.
matzo candy with sea salt

There are some clever things done with matzo this time of year. There’s matzo ball soup, of course. And matzo kugel. Matzo brie is a personal favorite, along with matzo pizza. Some more creative folks make matzo lasagna or matzo sliders or matzo granola. Pretty fancy stuff when you’re starting with a humble cracker, and pretty tasty too. But Jeff won’t touch any of it. All I have to do is mention matzo and he leaves the kitchen.

So when I set out to make a lovely batch of chocolate matzo toffee, Jeff turned up his nose. But the smell of bubbling butter and sugar and the sweet scent of melted chocolate piqued his curiosity. When I handed him a nice big chocolatey piece he took a tiny, tentative, reluctant bite. And then he smiled.
chocolate matza

Yes, even Jeff, the ultimate matzo-hater, approves of chocolate matzo toffee. It’s that good. Sweet, buttery, and crunchy, it’s pretty much everything you could want in a treat. I topped half of my batch with toasted sliced almonds, and the other half with pretty pink Hawaiian salt. I happen to be partial to the combination of salt and chocolate, but you can feel free to use any toppings you like. Chopped dried fruit might be nice, or walnuts. But for the chocolate, I really do like to use the mini chocolate chips – they melt faster.

Happy Passover!

Chocolate Matzo Toffee

5 pieces whole wheat matzo
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
toasted nuts, flakey salt, or chopped dried fruit for toppings

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the matzo pieces, breaking as needed to fit. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Pour the butter and sugar mixture evenly over the matzo. Bake until the brown sugar mixture bubbles and darkens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the matzo from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Allow the chocolate to melt, about 5 minutes, and then use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the matzo. Sprinkle with the toppings, and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill until very firm, about 2 hours. Once firm, break the chocolate matzo toffee into pieces and serve.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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Easy Dark Chocolate Fudge

Why do people say “easy as pie”?  Anyone who has ever made a pie knows that this is a truly silly statement.  Pie crust is finicky. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the challenge – I like making pie.  But I wouldn’t call it “easy”.  That’s kind of like saying “easy as yoga”.  There is nothing easy about crow pose.

What people should say is “easy as fudge”.

I always assumed that making fudge had to be a scary, messy process involving candy thermometers and cooling tables. No one told me that four simple ingredients, and about five minutes of effort, could yield delightfully smooth, rich fudge.  No one, that is, until my mother-in-law.  She makes mountains of this stuff every year at the holidays (I think that Jeff annually consumes at least three or four pounds of fudge between Christmas and New Years).  It makes a wonderful holiday gift for anyone from your hairdresser to your great-aunt. 

candy dish fudgeSo even though the holidays are long gone, when I was wracking my brain for a homemade housewarming treat to cart down to Texas with me, fudge seemed like the perfect choice.  Packed in a little tin, it travels amazingly well.  And my chocoholic friend Katie will adore the deep, rich flavor of this intense, dark chocolate fudge.  Yes, her name is Katie too.  And we both love chocolate.  We’re a match made in heaven.

So, Katie, if you’re reading this, I guess I spoiled the chocolatey surprise.  You’re getting a tin of fudge when you pick me up at the airport tomorrow.  I promise you’ll enjoy it even more after a whole night of chocolate anticipation.

Now, you probably already knew all about the wonders of quick and easy fudge.  But if, like me, you have been in the dark all these years, let me just point out that this is really a base recipe.  You can add nuts, dried fruit, or even chopped up candy (think peppermint patties, milky way bars, etc) at the last minute before spreading in the pan.  I quite like this plain old dark chocolate version, though.  I’ve always liked basic chocolate fudge best.  When I was 13 years old my friend Laura and I took the ferry over to Block Island for the day – all by ourselves.  And because we had no parents to watch our every move, we bought and ate two pounds of chocolate fudge; one for breakfast and one for dinner.  You might think after that day I would detest chocolate fudge, but you’d be wrong.

Kim’s Easy Chocolate Fudge

1 pound good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

a pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil.  Generously grease the foil and set the pan aside. In a sauce pan over low heat, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly to avoid burning the chocolate (you can do this over a double boiler if you want, but it’s not necessary, as long as you are very careful).  As soon as the chocolate melts completely, add the condensed milk and the saltand continue stirring quickly to combine.  Cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.  Spread the fudge mixture into the prepared pan.  Take your time smoothing the top of the fudge.  Refrigerate until fully set, at least a few hours, but longer is better. Remove the fudge from the pan, peeling away the foil.  Cut into pieces (any size you like) and serve. Keeps refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Published in: on March 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm  Comments (20)  
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Candied Cranberries Revisited

sugared cranberries

I’m still new to this whole Christmas thing, which makes me a bit like a kid in a candy store.  I’m not alone, I think, in those who inherit Christmas by marriage.  After decades of watching through the windows as neighbors decorate trees and rip open mountains of gifts, it’s hard to contain the enthusiasm when we finally get a piece of the pie. There is just so much of it.  It’s all encompassing. Cookies to make, stockings to stuff, gifts to wrap, trees to decorate, cartoons to watch, cards to read, carols to sing… and it goes on.

My mother-in-law has Christmas down to a science.  On the Friday after Thanksgiving the snowmen and nutcrackers march out of the closet.  The Christmas mugs appear, full of cocoa.  The carols find their way into the CD player, and the tree bursts out of the living room floor, complete with star on top.  Cookies and fudge explode from the kitchen in a month-long stream, and wrapping paper tumbles down from the attic, ready to embrace gift after gift after gift.

It’s taken a while, but I’m getting the hang of it.  I’ve learned the merits of the dollar store for stocking stuffers, and even have an annual Christmas outfit, complete with a beautiful bright green silk blouse.   And while my in-laws certainly produce enough Christmas treats for all of us, I’ve even started to bring Christmas into my very own kitchen.

christmas cranberries

I discovered candied cranberries last year too late for Christmas.  I made them to cheer myself out of the post-holiday blues, and they were lovely.   Check out that original post here. The original recipe was so simple, just cranberries, sugar, and water.  Simple, easy, and even a bit healthier than all those cookies and chocolates.

But this year I took these festive little treats a step further, adding orange blossom water to delicately flavor the sweet confection.  As you bite through the crispy sugared outer shell and the tart berry bursts in your mouth, the perfume of orange flowers fills your head. Exotic and a bit mysterious, orange blossom water works beautifully to elevate the humble holiday cranberry.   I bought a bottle of orange blossom water at a local Middle Eastern store, and have been finding ways to sneak it into everything (it is fantastic in rice pudding). I believe, though, that brands differ in strength and concentration.  So while a couple teaspoons worked perfectly for me, I would urge you to play with the amount of orange blossom water to your taste.

These berries would be fantastic packaged in little jars as holiday hostess gifts.  Or put out a little bowl to snack on and they will be gone in minutes.  I’ve been loving them over waffles and even as a decadent addition to my morning oatmeal.  We’ve always gobbled them up rather quickly, but just in case you manage to save some, know that they don’t last for much more than a week before getting quite soggy. And this should be obvious, but another word to the wise… don’t use those cranberries that have been languishing in the fridge since Thanksgiving.  You might be able to get away with an old package of berries for cranberry sauce, but not for candied cranberries.

recipe for candied cranberries

Orange Blossom Candied Cranberries

1 cup water

2 teaspoons orange blossom water

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided

1 cup fresh cranberries

Bring the water, orange blossom water, and one cup of sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and then remove from the heat.  Let cool 10 minutes and then add the cranberries and cool completely.  Transfer the cranberries and sugar-water to an airtight container and let sit at room temperature at least 6 hours or overnight. Spread the remaining sugar on a plate.  By the small handful, shake excess liquid from the cranberries and then roll them in the sugar.  Place the rolled berries on a baking sheet to dry.  Repeat with all the berries and then allow to dry for at least an hour.

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 8:21 am  Comments (23)  
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Creamy Dreamy Caramels

salted caramel

Sometimes chocolate shops overwhelm me.  When confronted with case after case of goodness, I tend to stick with my old standby, the cherry cordial.  Do you remember Chocolat, the book by Joanne Harris, and also a film with Johnny Depp? Vianne (played by Juliette Binoche), the chocolatier, has a knack for guessing the townspeople’s favorites and says that you can tell a lot about a person by his chocolate preferences. I wonder what cherry cordials say about me?  Perhaps that my true interior leaks out to mar my glossy outer shell, no matter how hard I try to keep the juicy sweetness bound inside.

My mom is a caramel girl all the way.  Salt caramels enrobed in dark chocolate are her thing. Does that mean she is more complex than she first appears? Or perhaps that she is sticky and tenacious? Could be. Or it could simply be that there is nothing better than the way the salty sweetness lingers on the roof of your mouth. 

milk chocolate trufflesThis weekend, as a friend and I went on a bonbon-making jag, I was determinted to master those perfect caramels.  I’ll tell you this – it’s not easy!  Great caramel requires precision and patience.  The ingredients are simple, but the key to developing spectacular flavor is in the details.  It took a few tries for us to get it right, but we triumphed.  We made two kinds of truffles and three different cremes,  but the caramels were truly the loveliest of our confectionary treasures. 

Do use good salt here, as the flavor comes through strongly.  It might be fun to experiment with a variety of different salts. I actually have some beautiful pink salt from Hawaii that would look lovely against a backdrop of shiny dark chocolate that I think I’ll use next time.  Certainly a smoked salt would be worth a try, as well. If you don’t want to cover the caramels in chocolate, they are lovely as is.  As the caramels begin to cool, sprinkle them with a bit of the salt (it will melt into the caramel), then cut and wrap individually in wax paper. These make great gifts, chocolate covered or not (yes Mom, I promise a batch is coming your way the next time I see you).

home made caramel

Dark Chocolate Salt Caramels

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons salted butter, cut in small pieces

1 1/3 cups light brown sugar

1 tablespoon water

8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon grey salt

Heat the cream, vanilla, butter, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Stop stirring. Bring the mixture to a boil, keeping the heat at medium.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Uncover (do not stir) and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Meanwhile, prepare a small (6 by 6 inch square)  baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let cool.  When the caramel is still slightly soft, score the top into squares and then leave aside to cool completely. Once the caramel is cooled, cut the squares.  Place the cut squares in the refrigerator to firm even further while you prepare the chocolate.

To temper the chocolate, melt about half of the chopped chocolate in the microwave in 20 second bursts on low power, stirring in between.  Continue to heat in 20 second bursts until the temperature of the chocolate reaches 113-115 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Add the remaining chocolate one handful at a time, stirring quickly to melt each handful, until the temperature drops to 88-89 degrees.  You may not use all of the reserved chocolate.

Working quickly, dip each caramel in the tempered chocolate, tapping off the excess, and place on parchment paper to cool.  If the temperature of the chocolate drops, reheat it in the microwave for 10 seconds on low, being careful not to heat above 89 degrees.  Before the chocolate completely hardens on each caramel, sprinkle with a bit of the grey salt.  Allow the chocolate to harden completely.  Store caramels in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm  Comments (7)  
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