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.
Truffles, true rolled ganache tossed in cocoa powder truffles, are without a doubt one of the simplest sweets to make. Most people hear the word “truffle” and think of bon bons. The difference being that bon bons are either dipped or encased in a shell of chocolate. Bon bons are absolutely more difficult to make than truffles. You have to temper chocolate, dip or prepare molds, and prepare the filling. Its messier, more technically demanding, and just not something that I enjoy doing. Rolled truffles however are the kind of thing you could make while half watching a Cold Case Files marathon or FaceTiming your mother. I used to pretend that truffles took more effort to make than they actually do as I worried their impressive effect would be lost if people knew how simple it was to make them. But then I came upon this recipe and decided that the flavor is impressive enough on its own. I don’t need to trick people into thinking I spent an evening in the kitchen. All thats needed is planning. Simply allow time to steep the cream overnight, and then to bring your truffles fully to room temperature before serving. This gives them an unbelievably “how-are-these-not-melting-they’re-so-fricking-soft” texture.
These are seriously sexy food. So sexy that I made them for my anniversary as a way to end the night on a decadent but not heavy note. These are great for times when you want to indulge but don’t want to be weighed down, if you catch my drift. There is a reason that chocolate truffles are ubiquitous with Valentine’s Day.
Why do I call them “balcony fresh?” Because I made these guys lemon verbena flavored from some lemon verbena that I’ve been growing on my balcony. Clearly.
Everyone likes pie. Custard pies, French style tarts, diner style meringue topped ones, pumpkin, the variety goes on and on. The number one type of pie for me is fruit pie. Aside from ice cream I can think of no better summer time indulgence. The main reason that I don’t make pies more often is because of how many steps that are required. Preparing the crust, preparing the filling. These each often take overnight, minimum since I chill my crust for at least 8 hours prior to using. Then you have to roll out the dough, chill the pie, bake the pie, cool the pie. It’s kind of a hassle to be honest. The amount of work is easy, it’s the forethought that’s a pain in the ass. Despite my hyper tendency to prepare things and store them I like to have the freedom to just “whip up” something from time to time. Maybe I’m lazy, sick, or have unexpected guests coming by. Thats where home canned pie filling comes in. There will be an upcoming post on safe canning procedures in the upcoming couple of weeks. What I really want to focus on today however is the peach pie filling.
As I mentioned before I almost always have a double batch of pie dough in my freezer. This can thaw on the counter in 20 minutes. Whenever I am making cookies, pizza dough, or the like in my food processor I quickly throw in a batch of pie dough, saving me from having to pull out and clean the food processor on a separate occasion. I will be posting about pie dough most likely sometime next week, as I used my last batch for this pie.
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.)
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.