Sunday, December 17, 2023

English Toffee Chunks

English Toffee Chunks

There already exists on this site a fine recipe for English toffee. Lately, though, I've had this itch to make a more bite-sized (maybe two-bite sized) version of this holiday favorite. I wanted to make a more manageable size, and I also wanted to use a method of coating the pieces in chocolate that was not as labor-intensive as my usual.

I actually figure out a better way to coat larger pieces, but smaller pieces are cuter and easier to eat. So I cut this batch up into various small sizes, and the results are what you see here: delicious, buttery sweet, crunchy, nutty, flavorful deliciousness. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself. 😁

Who knows what this year will bring, but I do plan to make these again for next Christmas, and maybe then I will remember to document the process to update this post. Until then, email me with questions if you have any.


English Toffee Chunks

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped roasted almonds 
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped roasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup packed C & H Light Brown Sugar 
  • 3/4 cups  C & H white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 9 to 12 ounces chocolate*, melted and tempered (I like to use Dove Milk Chocolate)
1. Line a rectangular Pyrex/glass pan (9x13) with parchment paper (Do not use a metal pan for this). Spread coarse nuts in bottom of pan. Set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. At that point immediately pour and spread over the nuts. Allow to cool 5-6 minutes.
3. While the toffee is still relatively soft, but not liquid, lift the toffee out of the pan using the parchment paper and place on a cutting surface. (For me, my warm glass top stove worked well because it kept the toffee a little warm, preventing it from solidifying before I'd cut it up.)
4. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the toffee into small pieces, like 1 cm x 2 cm. Toffee may not completely separate, but that's okay; you can break it apart later. When toffee is cool and firm, gently break the pieces apart and move to a pan lined with paper towels to absorb any excess butter.
5. Set aside 1 to 2 ounces of the chocolate, and then over a double boiler set on medium heat (don't boil the water), melt chocolate until it is 2/3 melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Add a little of the reserved chocolate and stir until melted. Repeat until all chocolate is gone or the additional chocolate does not melt within about 3-4 minutes of stirring. 
Place finely chopped nuts in a dish or pan that has some depth and will allow you to toss the toffee nuggets easily.  (I used a deeper Pyrex pan that I think is 7" x 11".) Line a half-sheet pan with parchment and set aside.
7. (This is where it could get tricky.) Place 3/4 of the  the toffee chunks into the chocolate and stir to coat. Then using a fork, or small tongs, move 7 - 8 pieces of the coated toffee into the almond pan. Shake to start coating and then toss the toffee with your hands to finish coating completely with the chopped nuts. Remove coated pieces to the prepared parchment-lined pan to cool and firm up. Repeat with remaining toffee chunks. If the chocolate starts to get too firm (and it will), place bowl over the double boiler again and stir to loosen up the chocolate--usually only 30-60 seconds. Then continue with the coating process. 
8. If you have extra chocolate in the bowl, add any other naked toffee that remains, and follow the coating instructions in step 7. 
9. Allow all pieces to cool and firm up, then place in an airtight container. Divide up into smaller airtight containers and share with family and friends, if desired.

Makes a little over 2 pounds of toffee chunks

*I think 9 ounces will suffice, but to tell the truth, I didn't measure when I did this, and I probably won't make these again until next year. You may end up with some uncoated pieces of toffee. There are worse things to end up with, though, right?

Dove Chocolate unwrapped and ready to be melted and tempered.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Oatmeal GORP Cookies

For those who don't know yet, GORP is short for "good ol' raisins and peanuts," and I chose to include that in the name of these cookies because I didn't know what else to call a monster cookie that I transformed into something different enough to post about. 

This is a nice gluten-free cookie in which you can taste a LOT of peanut butter. This makes me happy. The mild flavor of the milk chocolate is what allows this to be, and the raisins just felt right, and they do, in fact, taste great. Unless you're not a fan of raisins, in which case you can leave out the raisins. 

All that to say, if you want a nice, chewy oatmeal cookie that is super peanut buttery with a splash of chocolate and fruitiness, give these a try. I really think you'll enjoy them.

Oatmeal GORP Cookies


  • 4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural Super Chunk)
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural Creamy)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 9.3 ounces milk chocolate Hershey Bars (6 bars, 1.55 oz each), chopped up into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 
Measure out the oats and baking soda and place in a medium bowl. Set aside. 
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine/cream together the peanut butters, butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.
Add the oats & baking soda mixture and stir to completely incorporate the oats. Add the chocolate pieces and raisins, and stir to evenly distribute them.
Using a medium size cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons), scoop balls of cookie dough onto one of the parchment lined cookie sheets, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Gently smoosh each dough ball to about 1/2 inch thickness.
Bake one pan at a time for 9-11 minutes.* While one pan bakes, fill the next cookie sheet with dough balls.
When cookies are puffed and start to brown a little on the edges, they are done. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes before removing with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 6 dozen 3- inch cookies

*Alternately, scoop and smoosh all the dough onto wax paper-lined sheets and freeze. When dough discs are firmly frozen, transfer to a gallon size zip top bag for baking later. Bake as directed before, extending the bake time by 2-3 minutes as needed.

Ready to go into the oven.

Remember to flatten the cookie dough before baking or freezing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Candy Cane Hot Cocoa Mix

I've been making hot cocoa from scratch for a few years now because it's really as easy as placing equal amounts of good cocoa powder, sugar, a pinch of salt, and a little hot water in the bottom of a mug, stirring to a paste, adding milk, and microwaving for 1 minute 40 seconds. This way, I know all of the ingredients going into it, and it's inexpensive compared to powdered mixes.

At any rate, last year I realized that if I wanted my favorite peppermint hot cocoa, I could either pay Williams Sonoma a ridiculous amount for their delicious hot chocolate, or I could figure out my own. I tried pulverizing some leftover candy canes and subbing that for the sugar I normally use, and to my actual surprise, it worked great.

So this year, I've decided to make it easier on myself and pre-mix the cocoa powder and candy cane dust. I've also decided to share it with anyone who also wants to enjoy delicious peppermint hot cocoa at home.

You're welcome.

Candy Cane Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 1 1/2 cups candy cane powder/crumbs (approx. 24 peppermint candy canes)
  • 1/4 cup broken candy cane pieces
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Using a food processor or a gallon size freezer bag and a rolling pin, pulverize the candy canes until they are mostly a powder. You should get approximately 1 1/2 cups of candy cane powder/crumbs.

In a medium size bowl, add the candy cane powder, cocoa powder and salt. (If you like your hot cocoa sweeter, use the smaller amount of cocoa powder.) Mix with a whisk.

Store in mason jars or other airtight container(s).

For extra sweetness and mintiness, you can coarsely crush about 4 more candy canes and add to the mix. The basic recipe here is somewhat flexible.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of mix.

Directions for the actual cocoa below:

Candy Cane Hot Cocoa

  • 2 tablespoons candy cane hot cocoa mix
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 8 oz milk (whichever kind you prefer)
Put the hot water and cocoa mix into a mug and stir until cocoa is dissolved into the water. You may have some unmelted bits of candy cane left at this point.

Pour milk into the mug, stir, and microwave on high for 1 minute 40 seconds. (Alternately, heat up the milk before adding it to the mug.)

Stir and enjoy, taking care to not burn your mouth.

I used a food processor to crush the candy canes.

Cocoa mix added to the water.

Milk gets added to the paste.

Not my best photography work, but you get the idea...

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

This here has to be one of my favorite recent recipes. I started making cold brew coffee recently, and this is what I've been using to sweeten it. And I also eat it by the spoonful on occasion. It tastes like See's Candies Butterscotch Lollipop in liquid form. Just delightful.

If you've never worked with molten sugar before, please be extra careful, and watch the video below to see the process. It's not a difficult recipe, but working with melted sugar is always  somewhat delicate and dangerous. 

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure this sauce would taste great on ice cream or the Butterscotch Pots de Creme that I have posted here on the blog. In any case, if you enjoy salted caramel, you'll love this recipe.

Please note that there's a very fine line between flavorful and burnt caramel, so if you're trying this for the first time, err on the side of a lighter-colored caramel. Once you get the feel of it, you can risk going a little darker the next time--because there WILL BE a next time.


Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • clean & warm 1/2 pint mason jar
  • heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • small saucepan
  • wire whisk
  • silicone spatula
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • Place cream in the small saucepan over low heat. Once it's hot, you can turn it off. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't boil.
  • Place the clean mason jar on the stove to stay a little warm while you make the caramel sauce.
  • Pour the sugar into the large saucepan set over medium heat.
  • It will take a while, like 5-8 minutes before you start seeing the sugar start to melt. When you start seeing melted patches, start gently swirling the pan to evenly distribute the sugar and prevent any burned spots. 
  • Continue melting and swirling the sugar until it's a deep amber color. Once it's deep amber, remove from the heat and pour in about half of the cream, which will bubble up violently. 
  • Whisk the sugar and cream together, making sure to get any sugar in the corners of the pan. 
  • Whisk in the remaining cream, and then the salt. Whisk until smooth, again paying attention to the corners of the pan. 
  • Pour the caramel sauce into the mason jar, scraping all the goodness in using a silicone spatula. 
  • Allow the caramel to cool enough to touch the jar without hurting yourself, put the top on the jar (not too tight), and allow to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator.
  • Use in your coffee or enjoy by the spoonful.
Makes about 1 cup of sauce

Ciabatta Rolls

Ciabatta Rolls

So, I started this post about eight years ago, and I cannot recall why I didn't finish it then. I didn't completely finish it today either. I just want to get the recipe posted because I think I'll be making it again. Perhaps there are other bread people out there who might be up for it as well. And perhaps I'll even make these again soon so I can take more pics or even make a TikTok about it. We shall see.
For now, this is what I have. 
There are so many things I love about these rolls, I don't know why I forgot about them. They're light, flavorful, versatile, and such a great sensory experience to make. The dough gets super puffy and jiggly (see video clip at the bottom), and they're delicious.
This week I used one of these for a fantastic breakfast sandwich with Black Forest ham, egg, and American cheese. Mmm. Super satisfying. The rest are waiting in the freezer for my nephews who visit next month, but I think I may try to bake some more because I'll want to eat and share these with Ezra AND I want to add more pics here.
Okay, enough rambling. Back to baking.

Ciabatta Rolls
    --adapted from Cook's Illustrated



1. FOR THE BIGA: Combine flour, yeast, and water in medium bowl and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (about 70 degrees) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).
2. FOR THE DOUGH: Place biga and dough ingredients in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed until roughly combined and shaggy dough forms, about 1 minute; scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Continue mixing on medium-low speed until dough becomes uniform mass that collects on paddle and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 6 minutes. Change to dough hook and knead bread on medium speed until smooth and shiny (dough will be very sticky), about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.*
3. Spray silicone spatula or bowl scraper with nonstick cooking spray; fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough six more times (total of eight turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, replace plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking.
4. Line two rimless baking sheets (or the underside of a baking sheet)** with parchment paper Transfer dough to liberally floured counter, being careful not to deflate completely. Liberally flour top of dough and divide in half. Adjust each piece of dough so cut side is facing up and dust with flour. Cut each half again in half along the length of the dough. Working with one fourth of the dough at a time, cut each strip into thirds (you will end up with 12 rolls in the end). 
With well-floured hands, take each piece of dough and press with your fingertips to stretch dough to a rough 3x5 inch rectangle. Fold rectangle into thirds and gently press the seam on the long side. Roll in a little bit of flour to prevent sticking. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough until you have six little loaves on each parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let loaves sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (surfaces of loaves will develop small bubbles).
5. After this last rise, place one of the pans in the fridge while you bake the other. Using floured fingertips, evenly poke entire surface of each roll. Spray loaves lightly with water. Carefully slide parchment with loaves onto baking stone using jerking motion. Bake at 450 degrees, spraying loaves with water twice more during first 5 minutes of baking time, until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of loaves registers 210 degrees, 14-18 minutes. Transfer to wire rack, discard parchment, and cool loaves to room temperature, about 1 hour, before slicing and serving. Repeat with the other pan that's waiting in the fridge.

Makes 12 large rolls

** I use a baking stone in my oven, and it's always in there. If you do not have a baking stone, just bake the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet and ignore all of the instructions to slide the rolls onto the bakig stone. Just put the baking sheets in the oven to bake.

*It's kind of tricky to keep track of the steps of dough development, so here's a summary/check list:
  • Prepare biga the night/day before.
  • Mix dough.
  • Let dough rise 60 minutes.
  • Fold dough 8 turns with greased spatula. 
  • Let dough rise 30 minutes. 
  • Fold 8 turns again .
  • Let dough rise 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven.
  • Form loaves. 
  • Loaves rise 30 minutes. 
  • Poke loaves with fingertips.
  • Spray with water 
  • Bake 14-18 minutes.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

I realized the other day that I don't yet have a recipe for beef stew on this site. So weird. Today's stew that you see here is actually an experiment that went well, so now it will become my beef stew post here. 

I basically modified my recipe for Swiss steak by adding stew meat instead of steak, and I added more liquid and carrots. I suppose I could have cubed some potatoes and added them when I added the carrots, but serving the stew over mashed potatoes sounded more cozy and comforting today, so that's what we've got here.

This made so much that I was able to send a bunch home with my son, take some to my in-laws, and have leftovers for my husband and myself as well. I think it would probably freeze pretty well too, but I distributed it well enough that I didn't get the chance to check that assumption. 

At any rate, I think this is a solid, delicious beef stew that I will definitely be making again. 

Beef Stew

  • 4 pounds beef stew meat (preferably large chunks)
  • 2 (approx) teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 (approx) teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup flour (I used Better Batter Gluten Free AP Flour)
  • vegetable oil for browning meat
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 5 cups beef broth (I used 5 teaspoons beef base in 5 cups warm water) 
  • 2-3 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped curly parsley
  • 1-2 batches of mashed potatoes (here's a garlic mashed potatoes recipe if you need one)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the onions, celery and garlic. Set aside.

Place a portion of the meat on a cutting board and sprinkle each with a little kosher salt and pepper.

Then using a meat tenderizing mallet pound each piece to about 1/2 an inch thickness. Be sure to pound on both sides of each piece of meat. If you have some exceptionally large pieces (bigger than 2 inches), you can cut them in half. If you have stew meat that is cut into small pieces, you can skip this step.

Place the flour in a medium bowl and toss each piece of tenderized met in the flour. You can toss several pieces at once, making sure to shake off any excess flour. Do this with all of the meat and set aside until ready to brown the meat.

Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When oil is hot, carefully place steak into the pan taking care not to crowd. You will need to brown the meat in many batches, adding oil between batches. When each piece of meat is browned on each side, move to a large bowl to wait.

When all meat has been browned, add the onions, celery and garlic to the Dutch oven. Stir veggies and cook just long enough until they start to wilt. Add paprika and oregano and stir. Pour in the beef broth and stir. Add the meat back into the Dutch oven, making sure you cover the meat with the veggies and liquid.

Place cover on Dutch oven and place in the oven. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours and then stir in the carrots. Bake another hour or so, or until meat is very tender. Stir in the chopped parsley.

Taste for salt level and add more salt, if needed.

Serve over mashed potatoes and sprinkle with a little more parsley, if desired.

Makes about 8 to 12  servings

You can see the mashed potatoes a little better in this pic.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Mixed Berry Muffins

Oh my goodness. Claire Saffitz has done it again: given me a recipe I will cherish forever. Her most recent video was of her and her mom baking blueberry muffins. I only had frozen mixed berries on hand, so that's what I used. These are the kind of muffins that really taste more like cake than muffin, but that's fine with me. I think I like the mixed berries more than I would just blueberries because the raspberries and black berries add just a touch of tartness. These ones are actually my second attempt in two days. 

Mixed Berry Muffins

Adapted from Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person YouTube


  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; if using Morton's use 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, black berries, mixed...)
  • 1-2 tablespoons demerara sugar


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • Leave the berries in the freezer until they are called for in the recipe.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. 
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until lighter in color. (You can also use a stand or hand mixer, but today I used a whisk.)
  • Whisk in the egg, and then whisk in the lemon zest.
  • Make a little divot in the sour cream/yogurt and pour in the vanilla.
  • Using a silicone spatula, stir a third of the dry ingredient mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
  • Then stir in half of the sour cream/yogurt/vanilla.
  • Stir in another third of the dry ingredients.
  • Stir in the remaining sour cream/yogurt/vanilla.
  • Then stir in the remaining dry ingredients.
  • Gently fold in the frozen berries. You'll notice the batter gets thicker because the berries are bringing the temperature down.
  • Evenly divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups (I used a large-ish cookie scoop).
  • Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the demerara sugar.
  • Place pan in the preheated oven and bake at 375 degrees for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown on top (mine baked a little too long today).
  • Remove pan from oven and then carefully remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. 

Makes 12 muffins

I used a whisk today instead of my stand mixer and it worked great.
This is just the butter and sugar at this point.

Make sure the berries are really frozen when you stir them into the batter.

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