Marshmallows are one of my favourite foods. That’s going to turn some people off I realize but I don’t care. I love them plain, toasted, made into ice cream, or especially in some bar treat (think rice krispie) form. But even if you are a marshmallow hater you might find yourself changing your tune after trying this boozy variety. And if you think you hate marshmallows but have never had a homemade one before then my money says its not these sweet little confections you hate but the crap that comes in a bag at the store. I make mine from scratch at least once a year and whenever I’m going camping. My boyfriend never liked marshmallows, finding them to be “pointless” and “too sweet.” He went so far as trying to ban me from making them anymore. That is until I put a healthy bit of bourbon into a batch. They are light as air, sweet, and have all of the depth of flavor of whichever alcohol you use. My go to’s are bourbon, whiskey, or rum. The alcohol cuts the sweetness and now these are “the only marshmallows I ever want to see in this house, ever.” You can guess where that quote comes from.
Butterscotch is my errything, and you can expect to see it’s delightfully burnt sienna self popping up from time to time as the mercury begins to dip. But what is butterscotch exactly? And what makes it different from caramel and toffee, you ask? According to Sweet Manufacture a British handbook and recipe collection printed back in the 30’s for professional candy companies butterscotch is a caramel with 3-5% of it’s weight being made up of butter. The same chapter also states however that “there is no definite dividing line between toffees and caramels, and in what may be termed borderline cases it is quite impossible to say which class a particular sample belongs.” I love that quote as I always read it in my head as being said by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. It’s the most Britishly formally way of saying “ehh, no one knows for sure.”
Nowadays butterscotch is known mainly as a sauce or in it’s chip form. It’s in the caramel family but it’s made with brown sugar instead of white which makes it sweeter than caramel while giving it greater depth of flavor. For me butterscotch creates memories of childhood and haystacks made with shoestring potatoes and peanuts. The flavor is American as Jell-O watergate salad and I unashamedly love it, even though every part of me knows I shouldn’t. If you don’t know what either of those “classic” recipes are, they’re the kind of things you usually have to grow up with to love, and even then they are as controversial as candy corn or licorice.
But I’m not here to rock the boat. I’ll not proselytize the wonders of licorice (and there are many) or sweet candy coated fried potato strips. I’m here today to give you the best possible introduction to this butter laden member of the caramel family: butterscotch cashew chews. The salted cashews round out the whole thing and provide the yang to the golden chip’s yin.
I jokingly call my boyfriend “the everything bagel bandit” because he leaves a trail of everything bagel toppings wherever he goes. Small piles of dried garlic and poppy seeds form in the rubber lining of the fridge door. They settle into the driver’s seat of his car and somehow find their way onto our couch’s throw pillows. I can’t blame him for his fondness. If I had the kind of metabolism that could support eating a half a loaf of bread’s worth of carbohydrates a day I would be all over that shit. Garlic, onion, salt, sesame and poppy seeds? Yes please. Never one to miss out I keep a jar of “everything bagel spice” on hand at all times. It’s a simple mix that takes a mere minute to throw together. It is amazing on popcorn (blend it up in a spice grinder first lest the pieces fall off), or on light toast with cream cheese, or as a topping on today’s project: bagel pretzels/pretzel bagels.
I avoid making really serious breads because my KitchenAid is jacked at the moment. The metal on the mixing bowl is dented which means the bowl doesn’t lock in. I have to hold onto the bowl with both arms and my chest in a full body hug that makes it look as if the mixer and I are about to tandem base jump. In fact the only reason I attempted this was because my refrigerator was being threatened with a hostile takeover from the sourdough starter I grew this week. Since my man likes to have his “daily bagel” this is one of the best ways for me to use up the portions of starter dough that would normally meet their end in the trash. I HATE to waste anything, if you haven’t gathered that by now.
This recipe is heavier than a pretzel but lighter than a bagel. It’s full of wonderful flavors and has a healthy amount of chew. They’re also thankfully smaller than a deli bagel.
Summer continues to hold on. The upcoming week holds highs in the 90’s until Friday arrives to free us all from the heat and work week responsibilities. Growing up in Southwest Florida summer was always my least favorite season, made only worse by the un-ignorable climate change. There is no such thing as eating with the seasons in The Sunshine State. Having spent the last five and a half years living in New York City however my views are beginning to change. Summer is now a scoch above winter. By no means my favourite season (that honor goes to Fall, who is hiding somewhere, ready to appear next week I hope) summer in the city has been pretty great to me. As a teacher I did not have to work so I took a huge two month long trip to Europe and Israel that I will post about at another time.
Still despite the fact that I feel ready for words like “crisp,” “cozy,” “spiced,” and “ooey gooey,” the world around me is not on the same page. But I wanna start fall baking right meow! The solution? Angel food cake. It’s light, airy, and pairs with the end of summer fruits and berries that can still be snapped up at the farmers market. If the berries are gone from your market fret not! This cake goes incredibly well with any citrus curd, canned fruit, or jam. Heck, you could even throw some frozen peaches or strawberries in a small pot with a sprinkling of sugar and some lemon zest and cook it until the juices release and the fruit softens. Just spoon that over a nice slice of this pillowy wonder cake. Whatever you do don’t forget the whipped cream, unsweetened of course (unless you have a couple pinches of vanilla sugar sitting around.)
Rugelach. Sweet, sweet rugelach. Despite my knowledge that these are Jewish cookies in origin every time I say the name my boyfriend and his family (Israelis) think I’m saying “arugula.” I’ve had these cookies prepackaged and store bought more times than I can remember. Equally forgettable were the stale, bland cookies themselves. Rugelach never excited me until I started working my way through Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. In it the inspiringly talented Cathy Barrow mentions these flaky little rolls as her favourite cookie ever. This alone was enough for me to try the recipe. Also I had three jars of homemade jam that were halfway full.
Macarons seemed like the best place to start this all off for a few reasons. They’re cute, popular, and actually easier to make than one would imagine. That being said wonderfully rustic, adorable, and stupidly delicious macarons are easy to make. Picture perfect ones, however, are a different story. I’ve made a lot of macs in my day and I still cross my finger that every batch will have perfect feet,* chewy centers, and be free of any and all rogue cracks. More often than not they come out smooth as silk and bursting with light clean flavors. Today just was not my day. Consider it my disclaimer that macarons are just plain ole’ temperamental. You may do every little thing perfect and something will just not be as pretty as you’d like. These will be freaking delicious with a plush chewy center and a shatteringly crisp shell that just beg for a satiny buttercream filling. I can forgive these guys for being a bit bumpy. In fact if I keep too many of these around the house I’m going to start getting bumpy too. The amount of butter in the filling is no joke. If they don’t come out the way you want them crumble them up and use them to decorate a cake, or top some ice cream, or just give them away to the people in your life who don’t/won’t/can’t cook. They’ll still be impressed and if you’re not satisfied try again.
This time the recipe is not mine, which is kind of a crime for my first post. It can be found here on Brave Tart’s site. I halved my recipe and got 24 macs out of it. I also used her Swiss buttercream recipe using my own homemade vanilla extract (saved for a later post.)
To put it bluntly her recipe kicks ass but there are still some tips to help you out as you go that I’ve learned over the years.
*Feet are the little bumpy lining on the bottom of the macaron shell that is made when the macaron rises, assuming your batter isn’t too wet.