13 December 2014

Baking and Candy Making with Jill




FANTASTIC CARAMELS
1 cup Butter
2-1/4 cup Light brown sugar
Dash Salt
1 cup Light Karo corn syrup
14 oz. Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  1. Butter sides and bottom of 8" or 9" square pan
  2. Melt 1 cup butter in 3-qt. saucepan over medium to medium high heat
  3. Stir in sugar and salt
  4. Stir in corn syrup; gradually add Eagle Brand
  5. Mixture will be at rolling boil
  6. Continue to cook, stirring intermittently intil candy thermometer reaches 245*
My dear friend Jill of Jill Stone's Wild Ride really wanted to make Christmas cookies, so we set yesterday as the day. I assumed she'd want to make sugar cookie cut-outs, but this time she wanted me to choose. And since I've been gluten-free for over 4 months, I'm much more interested in making candies than cookies. I choose Fantastic Caramels (because they are), Mrs. Bates' Fudge, and Thumbprint cookies (because they are a favorite of CA, and I have not made them in 25 years. Truly. They are labor intensive--so many steps. And, mostly I don't like to make them because my fingers get all gunky.)
I am an administrator, by heart and by experience, so I suggested to Jill that we mix-up a double batch of the cookie dough and let it chill while we make the Caramels. One tip I remember from my Caramel-making days is that you can't over-stir the Caramel mixture as stirring cools the boil slightly, making it almost impossible to reach 245°. Jill is a hard-worker, both persistent and patient, so she takes on the Caramel stirring.
In the meanwhile I chop walnuts and whip up some frosting. While the cookies are technically Jam Thumbprints, CA's mom always filled the little wells with colored frosting. CA is a traditionalist, and since we're making these cookies for his dining pleasure he gets them just the way he likes them. 
(And after 6+ weeks of tending my abscess wound, he deserves anything he desires!)
When the Caramels reach 245°, we pour them into a very square 8"x8" well-buttered pan, and set that on a wire rack to cool.



(JAM) THUMBPRINTS
Better Homes and Gardens c.1969
2/3 cup Butter
1/3 cup Sugar
2 Egg yolks (reserve egg whites)
1tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Salt
1-1/2 cups Flour
3/4 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  1. Cream together butter and sugar
  2. Mix in egg yolks, vanilla, and salt
  3. Gradually add flour, mixing well
  4. Chill at least one hour
  5. Shape dough into 3/4" balls
  6. Dip cookie dough balls in slightly-whipped egg whites
  7. Roll in finely-chopped walnuts
  8. Place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet
  9. Use finger to make indentation in center of each cookie
  10. Bake at 350° for 15-17 minutes 
  11. You may have to re-press the indentation
  12. Cool completely
  13. Place a dollop of colored frosting in center of each cookie
  14. Enjoy!

Guess what? My fingers do not get gunky! Because, as I form the buttery dough into balls, Jill dips them into the slightly-beaten egg whites and rolls them in the walnuts. Beautiful!
Just as we finish baking the cookies the Caramels are ready to cut and wrap. I cut; Jill wraps. Actually, we wrap Jill's in 4"-square parchment papers and I put mine into tiny fluted candy papers.
In accordance with Jill's time-tested Wild Ride (see link above), she has other places to go; people to see. But, I'm determined that she have a batch of Mrs. Bates' Fudge, and she's interested in learning a simple and creamily-delicious recipe. 
I take the helm for this one, and Jill looks over my shoulder while continuing to clean-up our baking mess. Bless her. The only tricky part of this recipe is knowing when to pour the bubbling mixture into the buttered pan. The recipe intimates that one will intuit the precise moment--"when the sheen is just off" or something close to that. All I can really add is that experience is the best teacher. I know: Yadda, yadda... But, one does learn from failure. And, this stuff still tastes great no matter if it's hard or runny. Runny is best because then you just call it fudge sauce
A couple of additional tips: 1) you cannot double this recipe, 2) you must cut it before it's completely cool, then re-cut when cool, 3) I find my square 5"x5" pan is the perfect mold, but that size is almost impossible to find. Mine came from E. Dehillerin in Paris. 


A happy day for both Jill and I. 
We will need a batch of the Fudge for home consumption, and I want to try a batch of Peanut Butter Fudge. There's lots of frosting left for Molasses Sandwich Cookies (lemon frosting), and I've promised RvH Banana Bread and a few giant M+M cookies...


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