Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Fun

Happy Halloween!

Ladies and Gents I have been a busy girl. Since Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year I always dive in with great gusto. This year has been lacking a bit of the gusto because we lost a rather special woman very near the holiday that she taught me to love so much. My childhood Halloweens were always hosted by Debbie and I will always carry her with me in spirit as I think of and prepare for this, my most favored and haunted, holiday of the year.

I got the chance to use that wonderful new serving stand that my mother in law recently gifted to me. It was perfect for holding my special Halloween candies. Who says that kids should have all the fun? I made candy for the adults in my life this year.

I started with my Grandmother's recipe for peanut brittle. We are in the south, after all. This recipe is as traditional as it gets and has a beautiful honeycomb pattern when you break it apart because of the addition of baking soda at the end of the process.

When you give this recipe a go for yourself remember that you must be able to hear the peanuts popping and thusly you must not have on the television or radio to keep you company in the kitchen. The scent of the browning peanuts and caramelizing sugars should do nicely to keep your senses occupied in the absence of audible entertainment.

Also, take note that it is cooked without a thermometer and in a cast iron skillet; I do not recommend using another type of pan. If you only have a small pan you might half the recipe, but please do not try to make this recipe in a regular pan. You will surely burn the nuts and that would be such a shame.

Peanut Brittle

1 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup White Corn Syrup
2 Cups Raw Peanuts
1 Tsp. Baking Soda

Line a cookie sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with oil or rub with butter.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and peanuts in a large cast iron skillet; do not add the baking soda, measure it out and then set it aside for later.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the peanuts begin to pop.

Add the baking soda and mix thoroughly.

Quickly spoon the candy onto prepared sheet to cool, smooth it out as much as you can manage.

Once cooled break into pieces to be enjoyed.

There are absolutely no redeeming health qualities within this candy. Hence the word, candy; no self respecting kid at heart would want it any other way. This recipe is as easy as it sounds so, be careful making it could become a habit.

Next up, or shall I say down, on my three tiers of Halloween happiness is honey caramel.

I am from Texas and we pronounce that cair-ml, not car-ml; just as we say cain't instead of can't and ain't is most certainly a word in my vocabulary. You can take a girl out of Texas, but you can't take the Texas out of....well, you get the gist.

Oh yeah, just for future reference, in Texas we pronounce pecan, Pa-con, as opposed to those from Georgia, and the like, who pronounce it Pee-can. Next time you visit you'll know just how to ask for that pecan pie you love or how to find a delicious piece of caramel when that is what you are hankerin' for.

As for the tasty morsels of caramel that I doled out, they were some of the best I have ever made. I did three things differently than the recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

First I doubled the recipe, after all who doesn't love caramel?

Next, I split the sugar portion of the recipe into 3/4 cup evaporated sugar cane and 1 1/4 cups honey; I did this because I am not the greatest lover of honey and was trepidations about the flavor being too pronounced in the candies. I needn't have worried because the honey was very subtle by the time the cooking process was complete and next time I will use all honey.

The third thing I did differently was to add 1/2 tsp dried chipotle powder. This idea came from the most wonderful caramel I have ever purchased; the Béquet chipotle caramel had a bit of a pepper bite to it, which was lovely, but I added the chipotle only for flavor enhancement and boy was it a gamble that payed off. It added only a slightly smoky flavor that paired perfectly with the cream and honey. Yummy! Why didn't I save more of these for myself?

I got the recipe for honey caramel here.

On the third and largest tier of my hallowed eve delights rest my, first ever, batch of marshmallows. These were a delight to make, albeit a bit of a sticky delight. Ironically as I was making these I had the Food Network on to keep me company and the Barefoot Contessa was making her own version of these soft delights; she termed the process as magical and I do quite agree.

Magically you go from the most simple of ingredients to the sweetest, lightest treat in my kitchen. I know your thinking, what about meringues? They are light and sweet and also somewhat magical in their transformation, but today I am enamored of my newest friend, my fluffy, serendipitous marshmallows.

I am quite excited to play with the flavor and color possibilities that this treat has to offer. These orange goodies were a basic vanilla that I dyed to celebrate the season. I have plans for red cranberry, blue coconut, swirled strawberry cream, chocolate and orange...oooh, the possibilities abound.

I found the marshmallow recipe here.

I used the caramel to make caramel apples. The tart little green lovelies first went for a dip in the seductive warm caramel followed by a quick roll with either pecans or hazelnuts. I tucked them in for the night with a thick blanket of dark chocolate. Isn't fall the most fabulous season of all?

Tart number one out for the evening with a revealing hazelnut ensemble....

Tart number two has graced us with her chocolate clad, pecan adorned presence...

A night out always deserves a gossip session the morning after, don't you agree?

Moving on, to the south we have one of the holiday season's brightest shinning stars, the decorated cookie. These lovely ladies can be seen here in a melange of spooky colors and in two delectable varieties.

The sugar cookies are ones that I love and I have posted the recipe before, you can find it here.

While their darker cousins are called Light Spice Cookies and have a delightful crunch; I got them here and so can you.

Accompanying their seasonal frocks are some 'cookie tattoos.' Found in the seasonal aisle at my local Target these inexpensive adornments made decorating a snap. You just peel them off of thick paper and place them onto wet royal icing. Voi-la, your cookie is decorated. No excuses from those of you who use the less than creative excuse any more. These are so simple and too easy to be overlooked by the über busy bakers out there.

For your viewing pleasure...I do hope you are pleased...
Bear with me, almost done...
Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

Strawberry Sweets said...

These look so cute! I want to make these for my kids someday.