Category Archives: Confections and Candies

Healthy-ish Salted Almond Joy Bars

all dipped 2While these home-made almond joy bars aren’t exactly healthy, they are healthy-ish. It’s all a matter of degree. Consider the ingredients in a store bought Almond Joy:

Corn Syrup, Milk Chocolate (Milk Chocolate, Contains Sugar, Coca Butter, Chocolate, Milk, Lactose, Milk Fat, Nonfat Milk, Soy Lecithin, An Emulsifier), Coconut, Sugar, Almonds, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oils, Whey, Cocoa, Salt, Vanilla, Chocolate, Egg Whites, Soya Lecithin, and Sodium Metabisulfite, to Preserve Color.ingredientsThese simply contain unsweetened almond butter, unsweetened coconut, honey, coconut oil, vanilla bean paste and salt. They are finished with a thick coating of bittersweet chocolate and topped with whole toasted almonds and sea salt. This recipe is from the genius mind of Anna Jones. I am loving her new book, A Modern Way to Cookmix in a bowlspreading in panChill the mixture for about 45 minutes in the freezer before cutting into bars. Get your dipping station all set up. I was excited to use my chocolate dipping fork. I bought it over 30 years ago and it still thrills me every chance I get to use it. it makes me feel like a professional chocolatier. A regular fork works just as well for dipping. ready for dipping

 

all dippedThese satisfy your sugar craving without being cloyingly sweet. The hard shell of bittersweet chocolate yields to a chewy almond coconut filling.

Click here to print recipe for Healthy-ish Salted Almond Joy Bars.

on a bed of coconut

Mars Bars Rice Krispie Squares

6-squares I have been making these treats for many years now. I don’t even remember where the original recipe came from. Essentially, instead of marshmallows, you use melted Mars Bars (they are called Milky Way Bars in the U.S.) as the glue to hold everything together. I glammed them up with a blanket of bittersweet chocolate and a drizzle of milk chocolate to create a gorgeous marble patter . A sprinkling of coarse sea salt finishes off these addictive treats.tray-of-squaresI made a video showing how quickly these bars come together. I have been wanting to learn how to incorporate “stop motion animation” into my videos. Essentially, stop motion animation involves taking a photograph of your objects or characters, moving them slightly, and taking another photograph. When you play back the images consecutively, the objects or characters appear to move on their own. For each second of video footage, you need to shoot about 10 still photos. Check out the video I created. I used stop motion animation for the last 5 seconds of the video. I get so excited when I learn a new skill.

 

They are very fast to make and require no baking which is always a bonus at this time of year. They are a perfect hostess gift. Just be sure to tell your hosts that they don’t have to serve them if they have other desserts planned. Some folks are prickly about that. They would not appreciate an addition to their perfectly planned meal. Suggest they tuck them into the freezer for another day.

On the subject of perfect gifts to bring when you are a guest, I just got these fantastic new oven mitts. My old ones were terrycloth and had a hole burned in them. These are silicone on the outside but lined with padded cotton on the inside so they are so comfortable to wear. New oven mitts are something everyone can use but never remembers to buy.

Click here to print recipe for Mars-Bars-Rice-Krispie-Squares.

English Toffee

stack-of-toffee Sadly, I never met my father-in-law as he died before I met my husband, and my mother-in-law died shortly before we became engaged. But I lucked out with four brother-in-laws and and  one sister-in-law. My husband’s siblings welcomed me into the family with open arms and have always treated me as one of their own.

When I moved to Ottawa 25 years ago, I felt quite isolated after leaving all my family and friends behind in Toronto. My sister-in-law (who I am blessed to also call my friend), sent me regular care packages to ease my loneliness. The parcels almost always contained a box of Phipps Krunch, a delicious confection of crunchy caramel, roasted almonds and milk chocolate. Nothing like a heap of butter and sugar to fill the emotional void of sadness.

I was so excited to find a recipe for English Toffee in Bobbette and Belle’s new cookbook. It looked exactly like Phipps Krunch. I had to try my hand at making it.

Making toffee is not difficult. It just requires a candy thermometer and some patience. I love the chemistry of candy making. I feel like a magician when I turn simple ingredients like butter and sugar into something so glorious.

 

I was thrilled with the results. The buttery crunchy toffee is just on the edge of bitter, making it the perfect companion for  that blanket of dark chocolate. Nutty toasted almonds take this candy to the next level. Please do not forget to toast the nuts. Untoasted nuts are one of my biggest culinary pet peeves. They taste like sawdust. Toasting nuts is one of the simplest ways to improve the flavour profile of anything.

Just preheat oven to 350°F and place nuts on a baking sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes until they become toasty brown and fragrant. Let them cool completely before using or storing. If you are not going to use them right away, store them in the freezer, as they can go rancid quickly.

wedges-on-a-plateThis makes a ton of toffee, so keep some for yourself and give the rest away as gifts. You will be quite beloved.

Click here to print recipe for English-Toffee.

Sweet and Salty Magic Bars

on wire rackThese classic bar cookies have been around since the 1850’s! They also go by the moniker of Magic Bars, Hello Dolly Bars, Five Layer and even Seven Layer Bars. Essentially, they all begin with a melted butter and cookie crust, typically crushed graham wafers. This sweet base gets topped with more sweetness, usually chocolate or butterscotch chips, sweetened coconut and some type of nuts. A thick layer of sweetened condensed milk acts as the glue to hold everything together.

Whatever they’re called, they have never really appealed to me because they just seemed too tooth-achingly sweet. But last week I saw this charming video and knew I had to try this twist on these bars. In her new book, “Modern Potluck”, Kristen Donnelly solves the sickly sweet problem by swapping out a cookie base with a potato chip base. What??? Pure genius.

I had high hopes for these “potato chip crusted magic bars”. The combination of sweet and salty is my kryptonite. I went shopping for potato chips, because I rarely keep them in my house. Shockingly, don’t have much will power when it comes to salt. By the way, did you know that they sell unsalted potato chips? Chicken and waffle flavoured potato chips is one thing, but I draw the line at unsalted! I mean, salt is the whole point of potato chips, right?

I whipped up a batch of Kristen’s potato chip crusted magic bars. I was so excited I could barely wait for them to cool.potato chip crusted barsThe first bite was interesting. The crust was not as crispy as I thought it would be. Nor did it taste as salty as I was hoping for. The second bite left an almost rancid aftertaste in my mouth. I had eaten a few potato chips out of the bag as I was making the crust, and they tasted great. I suspect that cooking the potato chips a second time caused some kind of chemical reaction that changed the taste. I was so disappointed. I knew that Kristen’s idea of adding a salty crust was a great idea and I wanted to make these bars work.

And then I remembered these pretzel crusted treats I made last year. Why not trade potato chips for pretzels? Why not indeed? I topped mine with bittersweet chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut chips, salted cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts, and chopped vanilla caramels.cutting caramels

 

Watch the magic happen!

 

These bars have it all. A perfect sweet-salty balance and great textural contrast. Crunch from pretzels, nuts and toasted coconut, gooey sweetness from  sweetened condensed milk,  bittersweet from the chocolate, and chewiness from the caramel. A perfect treat. baked up close

one barOh, and I figured out why they’re called magic bars. Set them out with some cold milk and watch them magically disappear. They are even more delicious straight from the freezer!

Click here to print recipe for Sweet and Salty Magic Bars.

with milk

Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch

4 squares 625 sqI read in the Globe and Mail Food section this week that God gave us cardboard so that we could describe the taste of matzoh. Not this matzoh treat!!

I made this for my sister Bonnie. I slightly adapted the recipe from the April 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. This matzoh crunch is kicked up with a pinch of hot pepper. I wanted to make it with Aleppo pepper because she puts that sh#t on everything! Sadly, if you have been following the news, you will know that Aleppo pepper is almost impossible to get now. The civil war in Syria has virtually destroyed the Aleppo pepper production. (Although the scarcity of Aleppo pepper is the least of their problems.) The citizens of Syria are in my thoughts and prayers.

Aleppo is a dried crushed red pepper. It is slightly fruity, with a whiff of smoke and only moderately spicy. I actually found a forgotten tin of it at the back of my cupboard. Not sure how long it’s been there but it has lost most of it’s potency.

I decided to make a few batches of this treat using a variety of peppers and compare the results.
peppers
Maras pepper (sometimes spelled Marash), from Turkey, is a good substitute for Aleppo. It is slightly smokier and hotter. I made a third batch with supermarket red pepper flakes and one final batch with chipotle powder, because that’s my jam!what you'll needBrown sugar, butter and your chill pepper of choice get whisked together over moderate heat until hot and bubbly. Pour over matzoh and spread into an even layer. spreading toffee Bake toffee covered matzoh for about 10 minutes. Top hot matzoh with bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips and let sit until they melt. Spread chocolate until smooth.waiting for chocolate to meltTop with toasted chopped pistachios, dried cherries, toasted coconut flakes, coarse salt and cocoa nibs.ready to chillChill and cut into squares.stacked squares 625 sqOr cut into wedges. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious.wedges of crunchThe batches I made with the Aleppo and Maras were not very spicy. The heat was barely noticeable even though I doubled the amount of pepper recomended in the Bon Appetit recipe (I used 1 teaspoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon). The red pepper flakes batch had obvious but not burning heat. It was my favourite. The chipotle was too smoky for my liking. This matzoh crunch is a flavour bomb in your mouth. Sweet (chocolate), salty (coarse salt and pistachios), sour (cherries), bitter (cocoa nibs), spicy and crunchy.

Click here to print recipe for Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch.