Monday, July 29, 2013

An Ode to My Muse(s). And Toffee Saltines.

For a lazy person, this is already the fourth try to start this post. What the what? I guess it's because the recipe I'm about to lay on you came from my dear friend & soul twin, Sydney. And I miss her something terrible. Especially right now, as it is the year anniversary of Leaving The 'Shire <sad face>.

Sydney was my neighbor in The 'Shire and became my confidante, my purveyor of fine food and beverage, my guru & reference to all things Upper Valley (including a vast number of its' residents, as she knows at least 85% of the people that live there) - and my inspiration to start this blog

Before I met her, I had this (weird) fear of cooking, of the kitchen and of my skillz (or lack thereof) in this area of the home. Basically it was analysis paralysis: I was over-thinking it and being way too hard on myself. 

Sydney's kitchen is the first room you enter (after you pass through of the mud room area). It features a bay window with a lovely view of the yard area, pine trees, our her little street, and the trash cans for the four units of our her building. 

It also has a groovy tableau off the of the end of the counter with two, wooden, saddle-style stools. She has a tendency to whirl come in, take off her shoes, drop her bag(s) and then move into the center of the kitchen. 

While being a self declared WASP (of the highest magnitude, I must say with a hint of admiration), she gives the "Little Jewish Mother" stereotype a run for the money. For when there is another person in her sphere, in direct proximity of her kitchen, Sydney literally cannot stop herself from pulling out a myriad of light snacks. Nuts, cheeses, fruit, crackers, etc. are always at the ready, as are a variety of adult (and non-adult) beverages. 
We were cooking, which accounts for the cutting board, pancetta & knife in the bottom left-hand corner.
But a little idea of the snack tableau, complete with adult bev in bottom right-hand corner.
She flits from counter to table to tableau, making sure you have the right implements, napkins, refreshed beverage, etc. It's like going to a (relaxed, homey) 5-star Michelin rated restaurant, only it is Sydney's kitchen. It was is one of my most favorite places to be.

Her effortlessness - and ease - in this room made a huge impression on me <clearly> and the influence carried across our shared wall into my own groovy, little kitchen where I started to experiment. Since it was "just me" (no spouse <sad face>), if I didn't like something I tried, I could just toss it - and no one would ever know! I gathered ingredients that I thought might be tasty, and threw them together. 

I'll be honest, I made some real stinkers. My first attempt to roast beets - which, who the hell knew I even *liked* beets until I met Sydney - was hilariously disastrous. But the endeavor took some of the fear out of this magical room that had mystified and paralyzed me up to this point. 

I really do like boys, most specifically Spouse (I mean, he's!). But honestly, I kinda fell in love with Ms. Sydney (and my other ladies). Not in a hubba, hubba kind of way but the way you feel when you find a kindred soul, at just the right time in your life, and they become part of your soul. 

I have other soul sisters in my life - I am very, very, very, very, very, very lucky in that regard and they will be in future posts, from time to time, but at this point in my life's story, Sydney & my other Upper Valley peeps are upper-most in my daily thoughts. If it wasn't for them, if it wasn't for my time in The 'Shire, I wouldn't feel as comfortable in my kitchen - and myself - as I do today. 

Which leads me to the very first food stuff Sydney shared with me, and where the soul sister crush began: Coralyn's Toffee Saltines

I do not know who Coralynn is or even if it's someone in Sydney's family. Guess I should ask. Owel.

Coralyn's Toffee Saltines

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltines
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 bag chocolate chips (12 oz)
  • chopped walnuts for garnish
Thoroughly cover baking sheet with foil - use a sheet with sides as the mixture is liquid and VERY sticky. Spray foil lightly with Pam spray (not critical but it can help with the removal). Line sheet with saltines, place edge to edge - might have slight overlapping. Melt sugar and butter in saucepan over medium heat. As mixture begins to bubble, add vanilla. Boil until sugar is completely dissolved, mixture will thicken (2-3 minutes), stir regularly. Pour over saltines - start from outside and then spread quickly cause mixture cools fast. Bake at 375 for 10-15 min until golden brown. While this cools, melt choc chips over low heat. Spread choc evenly over toffee. Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.

Place in fridge for a few hours to harden. After hard (that's what she said), break into irregular shapes. Stores up to a week in airtight containers. One baking sheet makes approx. 34 oz of toffee

I broke some crackers in half so they would fit the whole sheet.
Meltin' the butter and sugar....yummy.
Melted sugar & butter dispersed over the saltines
Toffee bubblin' in mah oven! So pretty...
Cooling after it's been in mah oven. It's super liquidy after you take it out so crackers shifted...
Melted chocolate chips dispersed on top and about to hit the frig to chillax.
Notes on my preparation
  • I used Pam and it did really help with removal as my toffee still got foil stuck to it (which I gently pried out before giving to anyone to eat - jeez!) so can't imagine what would have happened if I hadn't taken that step. 
  • I used natural cane sugar instead of granulated white sugar so it took a few minutes longer to melt in the butter, maybe 5 minutes.
  • In addition to vanilla extract, I also used a skosh of King Arthur's Princess Cake and Cookie Bakery Emulsion. This $hit is the bomb for baked goods - and a little dash will do ya!
  • I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips and added some extra vanilla and a little milk to the chocolate chips, while they were melting. It seemed to help the consistency & melting process. 
  • I did not use any nuts but I can see where that might be tasty.
In talking with a work buddy, we decided these would also be awesome if you used a more buttery cracker (like Ritz or Townhouse) OR throw all caution to the wind and go for a thin layer of baked sugar cookie or shortbread dough. I may have to experiment with these ideas. I do make a mean shortbread <pats self on back>.

Do you have a go-to, quick sweet treat that you like to make? 

Smell ya later, peeps.

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