Friday, October 23, 2015

Butter Almond Toffee

Oh my goodness, how I love this stuff!  I first started making it about 5 years ago. A nurse practitioner at a family practice clinic I was managing at the time brought some she had made to the clinic and shared her recipe with me.  I have altered the recipe a little to suit my own preferences and now I make it every year beginning in the fall through to the end of the holiday season.   Here are the ingredients and measurements for all of them:

4 sticks of butter (salted sweet butter)
2 cups of white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (12 oz.) bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 and 1/2 cups of crushed roasted almonds

That's it, just 5 simple ingredients, and you are ready to go!  I don't always use a candy thermometer to make this because I have made it so many times, I can tell by the color of the butter/sugar mixture when it's done, but if you aren't confident with my method, by all means, get a candy thermometer if you don't already have one before making this toffee.

Here we go....

First of all, cover a sheet pan with foil and spread softened butter thinly onto the foil.
Then, before you begin the cooking process, get your almonds ready by crushing them. I put them in a zip up bag and use my meat tenderizing mallet to do this.  Regular roasted almonds are fine, but I prefer Squirrel Brand Crème Brulee Almonds because they add such a unique flavor you just don't get from any other toffee I have ever tasted, and it's so darn good!  After you crush the almonds, pour the chocolate chips out into a bowl for easy grabbing and then you're ready to begin cooking.

Using a heavy-bottomed medium sauce pan, put the 4 sticks of butter, 2 cups of sugar, and the salt  into it and turn the heat on to medium low. 

   As the butter begins to soften, just break it up with your spoon and continue stirring and cooking at medium low heat until the butter is completely melted.

Once the butter is all melted, as shown above, turn the heat up to medium high and continue stirring constantly.  It will thicken and begin to bubble.

As you continue to stir, the color of the mixture will start to darken.  Once it starts to look about the color of a brown paper sack, here's where you will want to use your thermometer to check the temperature.  You want it to be 285 - 290 degrees.  When using a candy thermometer, only place it half way in, and don't let it touch the bottom of the pan, or you will not get accurate readings.  Once it reaches that temperature, immediately remove it from the heat and pour it onto your buttered foil.  To get to this point, using my gas stove top, it takes me about 13 minutes from the time I turn the heat to medium high.  Yours may differ.  I also don't generally use a thermometer and instead go by the color of the mixture to know when it's ready.  For me, that's easy - it needs to be the same color as my coffee is after I put 2 spoons of creamer in it!  From here on, you will need to work quickly, which is why your almonds and chocolate chips need to be ready to go.

When you pour the hot butter/sugar mixture onto the foil, it should spread out nicely over the foil. You may need to even it out a little with a spoon in the center, but it begins to set quickly, so you must work fast.  Once it is evenly spread over the foil, immediately sprinkle all the chocolate chips onto the surface and allow them to sit there and soften for a few minutes. 

After they have softened, use an off-set spatula (or what ever else you want to use) to spread the chocolate evenly over the top.

Next, sprinkle the crushed almonds all over the surface of the chocolate.  I use a spatula to press the almonds gently down into the melted chocolate, but you can use the back of a spoon and it will work just as well. 
Now, all that's left to do is allow the chocolate to set before you break the toffee up into pieces.  I refrigerate it for at least 1 hour, then it releases easily from the foil so you can break it up and store it in air tight containers. There is no need to refrigerate the toffee once it's placed into air tight containers.
The bottom looks like this.  Here's a perfect example of the color you are looking for!
Warning:  This recipe makes quite a bit of toffee!  Around my house, however, this presents no problem.
This toffee has a perfect soft crunch that doesn't stick to your teeth.  If you like toffee, I encourage you to try it.  The more times you make it the better you get at doing it - just keep in mind that advance preparation is important! 
Now... excuse me, but someone in my kitchen needs to step up and do some quality control, so it may as well be me.  Time for tasting!!  xoxoxox

Monday, October 5, 2015

Breakfast Tortilla Wraps

If you've ever had one of Taco Bell's Breakfast Crunch Wraps and like them, take a stab at making them at home.  It's not hard to do - they are actually sort of fun to make, and you can be as creative as you want when it comes to what goes inside them.

Today, mine are simple.  Cheese, eggs, sausage.... that's how my husband likes them.
Here's how I make them: 

I'm using "Starving Husband" size here, aka large burrito size.  I like the Mission brand because they are so soft and pliable, they never crack when I go through the fan folding step later.
You can make smaller ones, of course, by using a smaller size tortilla.  If you make the smaller version, just use one egg per wrap and decrease the size of the sausage patty as needed.
Here's the ingredient list for these, but keep in mind that you can add ingredients to this and make them how you want, providing everything  fits into the tortilla, that is! 

Large burrito size tortillas

2 eggs for each wrap you make

Grated cheese (any kind you like)

Ground breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean is our favorite, use what you like)

Salt and pepper to taste

Rather than making one big sausage patty as I have here, you can crumble it instead if you prefer, but the patty makes a really nice foundation and just makes  the whole process easier.  I actually place the sausage right on my griddle before I turn it on and press it into the size and shape I want it to be, then turn on the griddle and begin cooking it.  I've discovered this is the easiest way, since I make it pretty thin.  If you attempt to do this on a plate or other surface, it's not so easy to remove it in one piece and get it onto the griddle.  By the way, a griddle is not necessary.  You can make this in a large frying pan as well if you don't have a griddle.
This gives you a good idea of the size.

           While the sausage is cooking, also "framble" 2 eggs.  Put a little butter on the cooking surface and break the two eggs onto it side by side.  Break the yolks with  a spatula, give them a slight mixing, and leave them alone until set, then flip them and allow them to cook until done to you liking and salt and pepper the eggs to taste.   As the sausage and eggs finish cooking, remove them from the cooking surface onto a plate. 

Above, you can see that I have placed the sausage, egg, and another layer of cheese onto the first layer of cheese I put on the tortilla to begin with.

Here's the fun fan-folding process I mentioned earlier.  The Mission Tortillas make this so easy, but if you are dealing with tortillas that aren't soft enough to do this without cracking, place them between a few paper towels sprinkled with a little water and microwave them for about 30 to 40 seconds and it should soften them up enough.   Have your cooking surface ready by melting about a tablespoon of butter on a medium hot surface before you begin this next step. All you do is make a fold over the top and continue folding all the way around in the same direction. Hold it in that position as I am doing here, and place your spatula on top of it, lifting the bottom with your hand. It's important to put cheese as the top layer because it's what holds the folded tortilla in the folded position while cooking.  Carry it to the cooking surface, turn it upside down so the spatula is resting on the cooking surface with the folded side of the tortilla resting on the spatula and your hand on top, then gently pull the spatula out from under it. 
Here's how it will look after you place it on the griddle.

Check each side by lifting a bit with the spatula to see when it's time to flip. This is the perfect level of "doneness" because the tortilla has a nice crunch to it when you eat it.
This is one easy hand-held breakfast! 
I also make a dinner version of this with taco meat, crispy tostadas, sour cream, lettuce and tomato, cheese, and salsa in the center.  Next time I make them, I will post it.  The crispy tostada separates the hot and cold sides of the wrap, and the cold side is not left on the cooking surface as long as the  taco meat side.  If you've had the original Crunch Wrap from Taco Bell, that's what this dinner version is, only better, because you make it with your own ingredients right at home.  Kids love these things!
I encourage you to make these!  It's really not difficult, and you will come up with an endless list of things you like to put in them, as I have.  Left over pulled pork or shredded brisket works well, and I have also made it with many other different meat and cheese combinations. 
So good!!