Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cooking: Hard Candy Improvements

Ok, broken glass candy (recipe here) is fun, pretty easy to make, and inspires happy memories for lots of people. Still, I find it difficult to eat and messy to transport. So, over the past few months I have been trying to come up with a better shape for the candy that doesn't require me to hand roll the candy into balls. I tried some silicone molds, but the pieces were just too big. I tried to pour the candy in straight rows, which is tricky to do, then score it with a knife and break apart after it has cooled, but that still resulted in a sharp edge.

Then one day, inspired by a cooking show that showed commercial candies being made in molds made of pressed cornstarch, I decided to try that method- replacing the corn starch with confectioner's sugar. The process is very simple: I dumped a few cups of powdered sugar onto a hoagie serving tray that I kept just in case it might come in handy one day. Then I pressed circles into the sugar with the back end of my pestle (you know, that thing you use to grind spices with by hand), which was far easier to use than my thumb. I made them at varying distances apart from one another, and I found that the closer they are together, the better. Then I just drizzled the candy into the individual cavities. Once they cooled, I shoveled them into a flour sifter to remove the excess sugar, and put the sugar away for the next run.

There are a few drawbacks. For example, my wrist was a little tired after all that pouring. And not every drop came out perfect, but it is still far better than a whole load of sharp-edged candy. My regular recipe of candy make enough drops to fill two huge catering platters- probably 4 or 5 standard cookie sheets. But the feel of the candy in your mouth is amazing- smooth on one side, and slightly rough on the side that touched the sugar. It still has that homemade look without all the discomfort. I think this is a great improvement!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Life is Good: Sunshine?

No one can argue it anymore... Punxsutawney Phil was WRONG.

Like all good fortune-tellers, Phil's predictions are just vague enough to be accurate regardless of the outcome. If he sees his shadow, as he usually does, there is to be "6 more weeks of winter." Since Spring doesn't officially begin until late March, there are ALWAYS at least 6 more weeks of "winter," regardless of the weather. If Phil does NOT see his shadow, then "Spring is right around the corner." In a 52 week year, certainly anything between 2 and 8 weeks could be considered "right around the corner," couldn't it? He can't be wrong!

Most people, however, take Phil's prognostications to be an indication of a greater prevailing weather pattern for the next 6-8 weeks. If you take that view, and if you live in his home state of Pennsylvania like I do, then he was wrong. Dead wrong. The sun is shining. The trees are budding. My spring allergies are a full 2 months early. The garlic is sprouting. The songbirds are raucous in their singing and the hawks are screaming overhead. Canada geese are stopping by a bit early on their way back North.

All this sunshine means that we are walking a bit slower between cars and houses. I've been noticing the toll that the warm winter's cycle of freeze and thaw has taken on my stone walls. I'm starting to daydream about how I want to set up the yard for the summer. Where will the fire pit go? When will I find the time and energy to start picking up the many rocks that the pigs dug up? Is that grass seed that Mr. Farmer brought home the other day? I had better hurry. Wow. It is barely March and I am already starting to hurry. There is still sausage to pack up and freeze. There are still pigs to slaughter and preserve. There is much inside work that isn't finished yet, but still...

Outside is calling...

Our only REAL snow this season... October 2011