May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

December 2008

Well, here it is December again, and once again I have failed to update in forever and a day. It isn’t my fault, though. Inexpectedly, my entire kitchenful of copper pots inexplicably vanished at the end of the summer. I am so pissed off. I have been pissed off since August. Who. Steals. Pots?

Well, okay, I have a pretty good idea. But I don’t write here to make accusations. I write here to share joyful stories of confection and fellowship, and recipes sometimes. Not to cast stones. Even when people insist on making themselves targets. All I’m going to say is, I don’t have the money to replace those pots, and if anybody wants caramels or basically anything with sugar in any form other than granular or simple syrup from Magothy Treats ever again, I better get my copper back. I won’t ask any questions. Just leave it on my porch.

Until then, it’s time to start thinking about gingerbread! I am formulating some variations I’m particularly proud of, so stop by for a slice with hot buttered rum or hot chocolate–and be sure to hit last year’s column on buttered rum to make some for yourself at home!

Posted in Sweets
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

April 2008

Spring again here on the Magothy–how does the time fly this way? and this spring I have such wonderful things to look forward to–my dear friend Kate’s sister Stephanie is getting married in November, which gives me exactly six months to figure out how to make the candy I’ve suggested for favors for her wedding. When I figure them out, I’ll post them here, of course. In the meantime, I’ll be talking caramels…because spring always makes me think of caramels. I don’t know why.

Well, maybe I do. When I was a girl, the boardwalk at the south end of Bayside was a pilgrimage site from the first ray of warm sun in March to the passing of the last breeze with any hint of summer flavor sometime around October. Everybody went. The grade-school hierarchy transferred itself to the boardwalk as if the little storefronts and the benches across the boards were little colonies. The popular kids ruled Vinegar Tom’s Boardwalk Fries.  The drama geeks took over the 50’s themed Shimmy Shack. Kids on dates went to the Griddle on Grand for pancakes. How pancakes became the official date food of my graduating class I have no idea, but that’s how you knew you were about to get serious in a relationship. Nobody took hookups out for pancakes. It wasn’t done. On the other hand, if your significant other herded you, however casually, toward Tosser’s Pizza at any point in your relations, you were honor-bound to (at minimum) sock him in the mouth or (if the situation merited) kick him in the balls. Either way you knew things were doomed. Kind of a shame, since Tosser’s has pretty good pizza considering it’s still only seventy-five cents a slice.

For me, the pilgrimage began and ended at Beurre/Sucre (which as as a kid I used to pronounce berserker…not that my French has improved much since) for caramel. Fall came not with the sign of falling leaves but with caramel apples, and springtime arrived not when snowdrops and crocus came up, but when Beurre/Sucre put out their garden caramels: flower-inspired bites of sunshine even if it was still bitter and rainy outside.

So that’s why spring is for caramels at Magothy Treats! Recipes for my Bouquet Caramels are coming soon!

Posted in Sweets
May 5th, 2009 | No Comments »

June 2007

Well, it’s June, and summer is officially here! Warm days mean one thing at Magothy Treats: it’s time for taffy!

Up until her accident last year, my grandmother still spoke about childhood summers in rented cottages on the Bay Byway, and how she and her sisters always rated their favorite homes away from home based on how far the walk was to the soda shop. That, and whether or not the local lifeguard appeared to have a whorey girlfriend.

Well, the soda fountain no longer stands where Granny insists it was, right about at Milepost Five, but it lives in her memory, along with the famous saltwater taffy the owner’s wife made fresh every day, twisted up in little squares of pink waxpaper. I spent a long time working on the recipes we use here, because I knew they needed to meet Granny’s exacting standards. And they needed to be chewy enough to work her dentures loose, because that’s my favorite thing about her visits.  My favorites are simple taffy variations made with the flavored sugars I whip up at Magothy Treats. They’re very subtle, but since you chew them a long time, you get the flavor in the end.  The recipes below are not so subtle, but are customer favorites every single year.

Taffy-making is not for the impatient, but it does have a certain comfort factor, a touch of zen-in-a-pot. Here’s why:

The sugar mixture can take a long time to reach its appropriate stage. You can do nothing to speed the creep of the thermometer needle, because turning the heat up too high will make the sugar boil over, and you have to wash down the sides of the pan to keep seed crystals from forming, so you can’t really walk away.  You must be patient, even if you think it’ll kill you; if you turn up the heat or walk away for too long, the sugar will pass the soft-crack stage and move to the hard-crack, and then all you’ll have to look forward to is smashing the brittle result into pieces and hoping you can convince someone it’s a strange, nutless brittle. Then there’s the pulling. It’s both an upper-body workout and a mindless, meditative exercise.

Also, good quality ingredients are important here. Trust me and don’t skimp on your extracts or your cocoas, or all the time and energy you spend stirring, watching, pulling, cutting, de-sticking your fingers will result in candy that tastes like you got it at a gas station, and which you might just as well use for attaching posters to your walls.

Although these recipes work equally well for that.

Equipment you’ll need for all these variations:

a medium saucepan (I like copper because it heats up fast, reacts quickly when you adjust the heat, and helps the sugar to keep from re-crystallizing once it’s melted, but really any saucepan will do as long as it has plenty of space for the sugar syrup to double in volume during boiling.)

candy thermometer (although as I’ll discuss below, I don’t fully trust mine and think it’s safest to second-guess it early and often)

wooden spoon

pastry brush

a prepared greased baking tray (baking spray works wonders during taffy making, and please do consider using a half-sheet pan with raised edges just in case)

Almond-Rose Taffy

I make this for weddings sometimes. Then I go home and cry into my teacup. Then I put some brandy in my teacup and I feel better.

You can add 1/2 tsp luster dust or a few drops of food coloring to this one if you want to make it even more cutesy.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/8 cup rosewater

3/8 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp almond extract

*Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Add the rosewater, water, salt, and butter and set over medium heat.

*Stir continuously until mixture boils, then leave to boil untouched until it measures 250-270 degrees or reaches the soft crack stage. (See hints below for more on this.) Wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush and warm water to keep sugar from building up on sides.

*Remove from heat, stir in extract, and pour onto prepared pan.

*When cool, butter or spray hands with nonstick spray and stretch taffy until it lightens and takes on a pearly sheen. This should take 10-15 minutes.

*Draw taffy into a rope and cut into 1″ pieces. Scissors work well for this. Wrap each piece in wax paper.

Honey-Liqueur Taffy

I discovered this recipe when I was forced to hide a glass of bourbon quickly.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup honey

3/4 cup honey liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

Follow the recipe above (minus the extract step). This is a smaller batch, so watch the heat and pan size.

Velvet-Chocolate Taffy

This produces a sticky, chewy, fudgy taffy that’s best kept in the fridge on hot or humid days. I make it for a picky kid who says it tastes like brownies.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

Mix cocoa in with sugar and cornstarch, then follow top recipe. Make sure to break up any clumps of cocoa. Watch the heat carefully on this one, and wash the sides of the pan down often. This taffy needs some extra pulling; pull until the taffy really resists, or it won’t hold its shape once you cut it into pieces.

Things I Learned From Painful Trial and Error:

I don’t trust my thermometer. Maybe it’s been broken since the day I got it. Maybe it really reads centigrade and I never noticed. I use the thermometer for reference, but instead watch for the sugar mixture to reach the appropriate stage myself and follow the advice of my doctor: test early and often. To test for the soft crack stage, watch for the bubbles to get small, thick and dense at the top of the mixture. Then drop a bit of it into cold water; the drops should form strands that are flexible, not brittle.

When pulling the taffy, be persistent, and try to hold out for ten minutes even if it starts looking like it’s reached it’s final state before then. Stretching aerates the taffy and makes it chewier, so underdoing it makes for harder candy. All of these recipes double perfectly, but this batch size is small enough to pull comfortably without assistance.

On the subject of pulling, try to grease your hands just once when you start , otherwise the butter or spray will keep the ropes of taffy you pull apart from sticking back together and you’ll wind up with a million strands it’ll take forever to work back together again. The good news is, you can work them back together, but it’ll annoy the hell out of you and you’ll wish you listened to me in the first place.

Posted in Recipes, Sweets