Double the Fun and Double the Chocolate!

By on December 2, 2011

By Jennifer Cote, Chef at The New Deli, Pinole, CA–

What do folks really need, anyway? If they need something badly, they’ll probably buy it for themselves. So, if we’re on a budget and can only spend so much, but want to show someone we’ve been thinking of them, what gifts might qualify?

My father-in-law always said, “If I can’t eat it and make it disappear, don’t get it for me.” Well, that made it easy! Every year around Christmas time, I would pull out his favorite candy recipe, for toffee. It takes about seven minutes of stirring the brown sugar/butter mixture, and a few seconds to pour it into a prepared pan (typically, sprinkled with chopped, toasted nuts). A layer of chocolate chips is sprinkled on over the hot toffee; the chocolate melts as the toffee firms up, and can be easily spread over the top. Within the hour, the toffee has cooled enough to be broken into pieces, ready to wrap in cellophane (or put into a cute tin).

Not everyone is a fan of toffee. We have a few Turtle fans in our house; my mom used to make batches and batches of them for Christmas presents. I didn’t carry on that tradition, as I didn’t have quite as much time on my hands, although I certainly appreciated mom’s efforts!

A few other candy recipes that have worked for me: Fudge and Peanut Butter Fudge. I was thrilled to discover that I didn’t really have to hand-beat the fudge with a wooden spoon for twenty minutes; I tweaked the recipe and was able to let my Kitchenaid mixer do the work for me. Yay!!

Toffee

Here’s a quick and easy recipe; a version adapted from an old Betty Crocker recipe (and one from my friend Joanna). It’s a simple recipe once you’ve mastered the technique, and comes in handy for gifts, or to have on hand for last minute guests. Makes about 30 or so pieces.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or toasted almonds)
  • 2 sticks butter (1 c.)
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (or almond extract, if using toasted almonds)
  • dash salt
  • 1 rounded c. chocolate chips (8 oz.)

Butter a 9 x 13 ” pan, and spread with: > 1 1/2 c. chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or toasted almonds)

In sauce pan, cook the following until bubbling: > 2 sticks butter (1 c.) > 1 1/4 c. sugar > 1 tsp. vanilla > dash salt

Stir constantly once it’s boiling, keeping it at a medium high heat. I usually set the timer for 7 minutes at that point, as that’s about how long it takes for it to get to the right temperature. Just when the sides of the pan start darkening, it’s ready to pour over the nuts in the pan. Spread to the edges, and then cover with: > 1 rounded c. chocolate chips (8 oz.)

Let chocolate melt (about 5 min.), then spread over toffee. Let cool until chocolate’s set (about 1 hour), then chop/cut into pieces.

 

Fudge

The quick fudge uses a minimum of over-processed ingredients, and is quite tasty. The traditional fudge recipe is more authentic, but a bit more complicated. It requires a candy thermometer, and needs to be beaten vigorously. An old-fashioned method called for it to be beaten with a wooden spoon (to incorporate air into it), but thankfully, a standing mixer also accomplishes the job.

Quick Fudge

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 sq. unsweetened chocolate squares
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar (about 3 1/2 c.)
  • 1/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. nuts

Microwave 1 min. or so, stir until melted: > 4 sq. unsweetened chocolate squares > 1/2 c. butter

Blend in a mixer with: > 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar (about 3 1/2 c.) > 1/4 c. sweetened condensed milk > 1 tsp. vanilla> 1 egg

Add last: > 1/2 c. nuts

Spread into a buttered, 9 x 5 ” loaf pan. Cool, and then cut.

 

Traditional Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares
  • 2 TBS. corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 TBS. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 c. walnuts

Stir over high heat until sugars are dissolved: > 2 c. sugar > 2/3 c. milk > 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares > 2 TBS. corn syrup > 1/4 tsp. salt

Cook the above on med. high, stirring some, till soft-ball stage (234 degrees degrees). Remove from heat, add: > 2 TBS. butter > 1 tsp. vanilla

Cool fudge to lukewarm, 120 degrees, without stirring. Beat in a mixer 10 min., until no longer glossy. Last, quickly stir in: > 2/3 c. walnuts, if desired (Or see Peanut Butter Fudge to the left, for alternative)

Spread quickly into a buttered, 9 x 5 ” loaf pan. Cool, and then cut. Makes 1 lb. or so, 12 to 15 pcs.

 

Peanut Butter Fudge

For peanut lovers, just swirl a simple mixture of peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, and butter into the fudge recipe after pouring it into a pan.

Mix together: > 1/4 c. butter, melted > 2/3 c. peanut butter > 2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar

Swirl into the chocolate fudge recipe before it sets up, for a great combination!

 

Jennifer Cote and husband Tom established The New Deli back in 1985, raising two kids in the process. Growing their business led to discovering how to cook healthy food quickly and efficiently; Jennifer has also published a cookbook/devotional entitled “From the Land of Milk and Honey”. Find recipes and learn about Jen’s shortcuts and cooking with whole foods at http://thenewdeli.com.

About Jennifer Cote

Jennifer's love of cooking with natural ingredients is inspired by the organic garden she's cultivated for over 25 years. A cutting garden provides flowers for The New Deli Cafe, an herb garden lends herbs for culinary creations, and twenty-some fruit and nut trees are scattered throughout her fairly urban back yard. New Deli compost keeps the garden flourishing, as Jen and her family carry on the family business, established in 1985. A blessed grandmother, mother, and wife, Jen gets much joy from sharing recipes (and perhaps an occasional basket of figs or platter of home-baked goodies).

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Double the Fun and Double the Chocolate!