I haven't bought any Halloween candy. Not yet. Last year I had stocked up by now and I thought I'd been very clever. I purchased the one thing in bulk I'd not be tempted to scarf entirely: Kit Kats smothered in orange dyed white chocolate. I hate white chocolate. And not just because white chocolate is technically not chocolate. I can't stand the waxy sweetness, that paraffin coating that sits on my tongue for what seems like days after one bite. And not one anti-oxidant to be had in the stuff either.
You've likely guessed what happened: I ate all the blechy not-really-a chocolate coated wafers. Each and every one.
This year I've decided to wait until the very last minute. This hasn't been easy. Especially when Christmas decorations are already festooning Home Depot, kicking my "sugar bacchanal" gene into high gear. I see the twinkly lights and my body asks me, "Why don't I have a month's long uninterrupted sugar ache behind the eyeballs by now??? Why haven't I had candy corn???"
Returning from the mecca of all things DIY, I walked into the bakery on autopilot and fetched butter, sugar, salt and a saucepan. Within minutes I was treating my seasonal disorder with a healthy dose of medicinal sugar AND I was eating an apple along the way, fulfilling some of my daily nutritive requirements. I'm a GENIUS!
(I was also celebrating the arrival of my newest baking tome Bake It Like You Mean It on Amazon for preorder. I always like to have two excuses when I'm putting myself into a sugar coma.)
You too can join me in such goodness post haste.
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if you've got vanilla bean paste, use it instead. the same amount)
2 large apples or 4 small apples
2-4 twigs about 6 inches long, cleaned
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted pecans, roughly chopped
•Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and coat with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
•In a heavy bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla and stir constantly.
•You'll notice that at first the butter and sugar are separated. This is perfectly normal.
|Sugar and butter separated. Perfectly normal.|
•Continue to stir. If you are a Sugar Baby acolyte or have heard me talk about hot sugar at all, you'll know that this seems anathema in the sugar world: one doesn't stir sugar after it's melted! But in this case, please do. The fat in the butter keeps the sugar from crystalizing while agitating and if you don't stir, the mixture will likely burn.
|Getting there! See that spoon? That's right, I'm stirring.|
•Once the butter and sugar appear to be friends and are no longer separated, clip on a candy thermometer. Continue stirring.
|That's a lovely color!|
•We're looking for the temperature to rise to 300º and as it gets ever hotter, you'll notice that the sugar mixture behind the thermometer is caramelizing more quickly than the rest of the toffee. Carefully move the thermometer about so you are able to stir those darker patches into the larger whole until you've reached temperature.
|We have arrived!|
•Pour the mixture into the prepared pan until you have a thin even layer of toffee.
•Allow the toffee to cool just a bit, long enough that you can handle it without scorching your fingers BUT not so long that you can't bend it easily. Score the toffee (if you have large apples, cut it in half and trim the edges so that you have a square. Save the rest to nosh on. If you have smaller apples, cut into quarters).
•Place an apple in the middle of a cut area of toffee and bend the corners up to cover the apple.
|Make sure your toffee is malleable enough to cover the apples.|
•While the toffee cools around the apple, place the chopped chocolate in a small metal bowl and place over simmering water. Stir until melted. With a large spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the toffee and sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
*You'll need a sharp knife in order to cut into this puppy for eating. Mortal teeth are in grave danger if you bite right in.*