Do you ever melt chocolate to coat something, perhaps caramel, or to use it to dip other items (say, sugar cookies), and are disappointed in how it doesn’t seem to harden? Instead of a hard shell, it stays soft and messy, melting onto your fingers as soon as your touch it. Well, if you’re like us, you’ve researched the matter, and found that your chocolate wasn’t in “temper.” And, you probably found difficult instructions on how to temper chocolate. We know we did. We’ve even tried it and told you about it. But, in that post, someone mentioned an easy way to temper chocolate. Really easy. So easy, it seemed as if it wasn’t true. However, we tried it, and found that it’s really easy to have perfectly tempered chocolate without double boilers, thermometers, or immersion blenders. Really!
We call these Betterfingers because we think anything you make at home is bound to be better. For one thing, it’s fresher; for another, you control the quality of the ingredients and choose the best you can afford, while manufacturers choose the cheapest they can get away with. So, how exactly do you make these Betterfingers? Read on.
We owe Dorie Greenspan a round of thanks. Not necessarily because she writes great cookbooks with fun and interesting recipes, but, because her Around My French Table was one of the first cookbooks we looked at when trying to find a recipe for cassoulet. Now, we’re not sure if there is a recipe for cassoulet in there, but there were definitely other recipes that we wanted to try. That’s what got us hooked, and made us want to start this blog. So, thanks, Dorie!
One of us got a notice to report for jury duty on Monday (possibly), the same day we volunteer downtown, which is when we bring treats for the other volunteers. Jury duty might mean that one of us would be gone most or all day, so any treats we made would have to be made ahead of time, which eliminates an awfully lot of baked-fresh goods. Now, if we add to the mix that we want our treats to match somewhat an adjacent holiday, month, or season (Bourbon-Pecan Mini Pies or Kings Cakelets for Mardi Gras, Peppermint Stick Ice Cream for December, etc), it gets difficult to figure out just what to make. After all, the only holiday this time of February is President’s Day.
We wanted to try a new type of candy this year and had just read a recipe for peppermint patties, or, as we’ll refer to this version, pepperminties. We found this in Prune, by Gabrielle Hamilton, which we really enjoyed. It’s printed to look like the notebook that the staff uses in the restaurant (maybe it’s basically a copy; we don’t know), including handwritten notes about handling and plating the food. If you want to have some feel for what goes on in a high-pressure restaurant kitchen, check out this book. But, for now, let’s check out how to make pepperminties.
No one seems to make candy from scratch anymore. And, while we can understand that, well, just a bit, because candy is so ubiquitous, we happen to know that candy you make at home is about a million times better-tasting. Plus, some candies are remarkable easy — you can have a batch done in under an hour with very little effort on your part. But, we do have this caveat: use a candy thermometer, preferably a digital candy thermometer. It’ll set you back about $15, but, once you start using one, you’ll never know how you did without. So, if you have a thermometer, let’s scratch up a batch of brittle.
It’s getting close to candy-making time for us. And perhaps, you, too. This year we decided that we might try a couple of variations on some of the candies that we normally make for the holiday season, and we’ll start right off with these little caramels. If you’ve never made caramels before, you should know that they are pretty easy, especially if you have a candy thermometer (you can make caramels without one, but we wouldn’t recommend it), so jump right in and scratch up some holiday treats!