Hello all! I know it’s pretty hard to tell, but I’m super stoked to be back on-blog. A lot has happened over the last six months and I’ve never been so busy – not that it’s necessarily an excuse – but seriously I’ve never been busier. Let’s take a look – I’ve managed to get married, hold down a full time summer job, continue a part time internship at a hospital, participate in four research projects at school, train for and run a half-marathon (my third), participate in a dance performance for charity, maintain my GPA, become addicted to spin classes, and have applied to nine graduate schools…I still have four more applications to do, but they’re almost done. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but looking back, it’s enough to make my nose bleed.
But hey, we’re all about moving forward and that’s what I intend to do! My culinary tastes have shifted to a slightly healthier scale, however fear not, I still love a good ole’ fashioned hotdog covered in cheese sauce (so rest assured you have not subscribed to a vegan blog). On that note though, I do plan on trying to show both my parents, my husband (HOLY COW I’M MARRIED), and other people that healthy food doesn’t have to be tasteless and gross. I know that sounds cliche and a lot of people say things like that, but seriously, that ‘healthy food’ stereotype is still around. Not cool. On that note, since my man is trying to hop aboard the USS Health, he’s becoming more open to foods that he might not have eaten otherwise. Success!! Seriously. Success. He’s totally digging scallions, quinoa, squash…things he wouldn’t have eaten a little bit ago. He also fell in love with tomato jam, figs, and prosciutto on our honeymoon when we ate at a swanky Italian restaurant…he ended up having some jazzed up crab carbonara that was amazing and he enjoyed a few complicated ingredients that I don’t think he’s heard of before. We’re heading to NYC for our six-month anniversary, so we’ll see how that venture goes (however I don’t think we’ll be eating anywhere too crazy, with him in grad school and me applying, we’re poor as hell).
Anywho – moving forward – take two. Foodwise, I’ve been experimenting lately with my arch nemesis…candy. It took me an entire Christmas break three years ago to master nut brittle, and that is something that most people consider easy! I found an amazing apple cider caramel recipe that I managed to pull-off…but to me, it seemed fool-proof…not starting with the classic caramel base of many dry cups of sugar, heat, and a prayer. I’d like to point out though, that there is nothing wrong with a fool-proof candy recipe. If you can find one, STICK WITH IT! Because they are few and far between. Not necessarily. Barks and brittles are fairly easy, but I’m launching myself into the world of candy thermometers and exact cooking temperatures, so may the force be with me. I’m also going to point out that yes, I do understand the irony of working with candy and my previous paragraph about eating healthy…but in my defense, I bring all my creations over to the Writing Center at school and make them eat it.
The recipe that I have is, I will admit, not for the faint of heart. I got the recipe on my third try and with that all I have to say is: make sure amounts and temperatures are exact! However if you are smart (which I haven’t been lately), you’ll follow everything to a T and get it right the first time. I’ll talk more on my failures in a bit. If you like Mounds candy, you’ll like this. If you like coconut, you’ll love this. It’s essentially a coconut and sugar candy that I got off of a FoodNetwork TV show. The chef is Aarti Sequeira, and while I don’t watch her show or make her schtuff, I saw this on Best Thing I Ever Made’s holiday gift episode and thought her candies were super cute and adorable. And I love coconut. Like whoa. Plus, the other items on that show were glorified Linzer cookies (yawn), homemade maraschino cherries (which were awesome, but they’re super fancy and I wouldn’t know what to do with them), and chocolate covered cereal…by Chef Jacques Torres…yep…Mr. Chocolate is contributing chocolate covered Cheerios and Corn Flakes to this episode. Facepalm.
MOVING ON! The recipe, which can be found here, is actually called coconut toffee…and according to Ms. Sequeira, “toffee” (in India) is just a word they use to describe all candy and not necessarily like the toffee that we are familiar with here in the States. Because I don’t have cardamom, an ingredient called for in her recipe, I have just chosen to call my recipe “coconut sugar candies” since essentially that’s the best way I can describe them. If you have cardamom laying around, I advise you add it, and let me know how it goes.
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
1 1/2 Cups Dried, Unsweetened Coconut*
1 Tablespoon Ground Cashews (optional)**
Food Coloring (optional)***
* If you’re having trouble finding this, walk away from your baking aisle and head over to to organic and natural section. I found that my searching and hoping in the baking lane just gave me sweetened and slightly moist flakes…like the stuff you’d use for macaroons. Over where they have the agave and gluten replacement flours in the healthy section of the store, I was able to find straight up, dried, unsweetened coconut. Warning: Like baking vanilla and ChocoBake, try to keep yourself from eating this as is out of curiosity…it’s kind of gross.
** I went ahead and did this because I love cashews, had some in the house, and decided to go for it. If you have access to bulk foods, this is perfect because you can just take as much as you need. I found that food processing ten cashew nuts was more than enough to give the tablespoon that I needed.
*** You can do this or leave the candies white. On the show, Aarti dyed hers a pale pink, which is what I tried to do until I realized I used neon food coloring… She used the liquid drops, two drops, for this recipe.
1. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 brownie pan with parchment or wax paper. What I found works awesome is if you rip yourself a piece of parchment, and then cut it in half down the center lengthwise…laying the two pieces in the pan covering the sides
2. Add the sugar and the water to a medium saucepot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar melts and forms a 230-degree syrup. If you need help with the temperature, either use a candy thermometer, digital thermometer, or head on over to her recipe (link provided above) for a thermometer-less way to get your sugar to the right temperature and consistency.
3. Once the sugar is to temperature, remove it from the heat
4. Stir in your food coloring until it is mixed completely
5. Add in the dried coconut and the cashew powder, stirring until fully combined
6. Pour into your papered pan and allow to set for an hour until removing it and cutting into pieces
You might think that the recipe doesn’t seem that hard, and I suppose it isn’t if you’re careful… Here’s what I mean:
You’re firstly going to want to carefully place your candy thermometer. The first time I tried this recipe, my thermometer was too far away from the center of the saucepan, causing it to read a temperature lower than it actually was, and I overcooked the sugar which thickened too much and really dried out the coconut. My second attempt accidentally had my thermometer touching the bottom of the pan, which caused me to end up with a temperature warmer than actual and I ended up getting coconut flakes floating in sweetened water and NOT the slight syrup that we’re going for.
If you eyeball the measurements of the ingredients you might also be in for trouble, if you add too little coconut then the recipe will end up not thick enough and if you add too much coconut your recipe will be too dry – neither of which set up properly and will leave you with serious PTSD.
Speaking of PTSD, you’re going to want to be careful, careful, CAREFUL when working with your hot sugar. Don’t – DO NOT – stir your liquid syrup and then lick your spook or touch it with your finger, or place your fleshy body parts anywhere near the hot syrup. You would probably be psychologically scarred for life, and I can say that, because I’m a psychology major. It’s easy to forget, even with a thermometer’s reminder, just how hot this liquid is. Allow me to remind you – OVER TWO HUNDRED DEGREES. Working with sugar is never for the clumsy or chronically ditzy because you can seriously burn yourself or ruin your cooking utensils…more emphasis on bodily injury of course. Granted, there are a lot of times when I’d lose my underwear if there wasn’t elastic holding them onto my butt, but when I work with sugar I make sure it has my undivided attention and I take precautions to not knock anything over, drip anything anywhere dangerous (like onto the burner…no bueno), or burn anything or anyone.
On that note, I urge you to give these a try if you do dig coconut – please don’t let me scare you away. (But seriously, don’t hurt yourself, I’m not responsible if you do) I do think this would be adorable to package and give away for the holidays, and I also encourage you to try making these with some other spices and extracts. My mom even wondered what they’d taste like with a chocolate coating or drizzle. Hmmm…
So here it is, reviving the blog with a pink (yes), candy (yes), recipe (yes). I figured I’d start with a sweet note since I got such a lot of reception with my Christmas sweets posts last year. I am happy to return back to the blog scene and hopefully we can make many more food memories together. I’m so very pleased to end this post saying “See you later!” because I’m not going to be leaving you hanging for another six months. I hope to see you in just under a week – I get the house to myself this weekend, so let the foodie experiments begin…again.
You can now place a face with the posts!