Tag Archives: almonds

English Toffee

English Toffee is a favorite when it comes to Holiday Season candy. I find it difficult to make because of the changing state of the sugar from hard-ball to caramel is so fast you need to move quickly and use subjective judgment. There is no time to use a candy thermometer or the cold water testing of the sugar’s state. The key is the dark golden brown color, but not so dark as to be burned.

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I think there is a psychological factor in cooking the toffee that in order to prevent the burning I do not let the heating of the sugar advance completely to the caramel state. I have burned the sugar at times, and the burned sugar tends to be stuck to the bottom of the pan; so the problem is not with the caramelized sugar going into the toffee, but in cleaning the pan. And, my sister Rachael taught me how to do that- there is a powder known as Barkeepers Friend that seems to take the black burn right out of the pan. I buy my Barkeepers Friend at one of the Big Box building goods stores.

English Toffee

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Stir butter and sugar together in a large sauce pan over high heat until mixture is melted.
  • Continue cooking while stirring constantly until toffee is very smooth and dark golden brown (about 10 minutes).
  • Add almonds and cook one minute longer, being careful not to burn.
  • Spread in a 9″ x 13″ buttered pan. Allow to cool several minutes.
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top. As chips melt, spread over entire surface.
  • Cool in refrigerator. Knock from pan and break into pieces.
  • Stores well in a covered can in refrigerator; I place wax paper between layers.


While the recipe is for a 9 x 13 inch pan, the recipe easily divides into half and can be made in a 7 x 9 pan. I have done that many times and recommend starting that way if you are not confident about boiling the sugar.

If your pan is glass, I would recommend lining it with foil before buttering it; I have been successful buttering with PAM spray. I broke a glass pan trying to knock the toffee from an unlined pan.

You are going to get a little burn in the bottom of your sauce pan; get the Barkeepers Friend I mentioned previously and it comes right out.

Daughter Mindy saw someone making English Toffee and putting it in a 10 x 15 inch pan; she felt the depth of the toffee looked better than when in the 9 x 13 pan. If you want to do this, you should increase the amount of chocolate chips to cover the bigger areas; try 16 ounces instead of the 12 ounces as a starting point.

Do NOT use the point of your good knife to break up the toffee. I lost the point of my knife that way. Depending upon how close to caramel the sugar got, you might even need to go out to the garage and get a chisel and hammer to break up the toffee.

Stuffed Zucchini

Normally, when I think of Stuffed Zucchini, I expect a stuffing that includes meat, such as hamburger. But this recipe is meatless, and I think it is good tasting, too.
The stuffing contains almonds and cheese. While it might seem complex, you should not have any trouble making it if you take it slow the first time to get use to blanching. I include separate instructions on how to blanch both the nuts, and the zucchini.
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Stuffed Zucchini

  • 3 blanched zucchini of about the same size (about 8 x 2 inches){see below about blanching}
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cooking oil (e.g. olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup ground blanched almonds {see below about blanching}
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dry, fine bread crumbs
  • 2 ounces grated swiss-type cheese (save 3 Tablespoons for topping)
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pinches ground clove
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter

Slice the blanched zucchini long-wise, and scoop out (and save) the center of each half to form a boat, with sides about 3/8 inch thick. Salt lightly and turn cut side down on paper towels to reduce the moisture in the boat.

Chop the removed zucchini flesh and squeeze out any water with paper towels.

In a small fry pan, cook the onion in the oil, covered, over low heat until it is tender and translucent, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, raise the heat, and let the onion begin to brown. Then stir in the chopped zucchini flesh and saute until the zucchini is tender.

Empty the fry pan into a large (2 quart) mixing bowl; stir in the blanched ground almonds and cream. Stir in about 1/3 cup of the bread crumbs, then the cheese. Finally stir in the egg.

Test that the mixture is firm enough to hold its shape by lifting a spoon full; if not, add a very small amount more of bread crumbs.

Blend in the salt and pepper and ground clove.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking dish large enough to hold the zucchini boats

Arrange the zucchini boats, skin side down, in the baking dish. Fill each with enough stuffing to be heaping full. Sprinkle each stuffed boat with the reserved 3 Tablespoons of cheese, 3 Tablespoons of bread crumbs and the melted butter.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbling hot and browned on top. Do not overcook or the shells will become too soft and difficult to serve.

Blanching Almonds

The object of blanching the nuts is to remove the skin that is around the meat; if the almonds you have are white- not brown- then they are already blanched.

Pour boiling water over the shelled almonds and let stand for a few minutes, or until the skins are wrinkled. Drain, rub with your fingers to remove the skins, and dry thoroughly on paper towels. I found that removing the skin was much like slipping the skin of tomatoes that had been scalded.

Blanching Zucchini

Trim and lightly scrub the zucchini; place in boiling, salted water, uncovered, until the flesh just starts to yield to pressure, usually about 10 minutes after the water comes back to a boil. As they finish blanching, plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking. Once they have cooled, dry them and they are ready to use.


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I ground my blanched almonds in the food processor. I think they would grind a bit better if they had dried more after the blanching. The ground almonds were slightly clumpy. They worked okay in the recipe, but next time I might blanch them a day ahead of time to let them dry more.

While the recipe begs for Swiss Cheese, it is hard to find in the stores other than sliced; I don’t find blocks or shredded Swiss Cheese. So, I grated some Asiago I already had for the cheese. That comes from a little farther south than Switzerland, but it worked. Other swiss-type cheeses include Emmentaler and Gruyere.

For the bread crumbs, do not use flavored bread; you would be fighting the basic flavors of the recipe.

I was able to refrigerate the baked zucchini boats and later heat them in the microwave for another meal.

Paska

How about cheese cake without the crust? That is often how people describe Paska. It is a sweet, cheese food that has a history back into eastern Europe. I like it as a snack, but it is also used as part of a meal. My neighbor tasted it, and demanded the recipe so she could make it for Purim/Passover to eat with the matzo bread that is eaten as part of those ceremonies. And, from what I find on the network, it is eaten at Easter in a Russian Orthodox home with a special bread kulich.

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Paska

Nadia Skoblin 1942. (This was a Russian lady Errol knew in Missoula, Montana.)

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 lbs. cottage cheese (not creamed)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 lb. butter
  • 1 cup mixed candied fruits and raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add finely sieved cottage cheese, a cup at a time, mixing well.

Add the fruit and nuts. Pack firmly in a mold. Cover with cheese cloth. Invert (or set in a dish) so it can drain and age a week or longer in the refrigerator. There will be considerable liquor which drains off so empty container often.

May be sliced to serve at the holidays.

Having made the recipe in January 2012 exactly as we received it from my Mother, I knew I needed to do a lot of experimenting with both the size and the ability to use modern kitchen appliances. Here is the original recipe; I don’t think you should try to use it as it is written.

I made this original version of the recipe with 4 pounds of cottage cheese as it calls out. I must say that sieving that much cottage cheese will develop muscles. I was really tired by the time I finished the sieving. Then, I mixed everything up, and it took two regular bread loaf pans to hold all the paska. I was surprised to find that indeed, I could invert the loaf pans and place them on plates in the refrigerator without the paska trying to drop out and escape.

The trouble came after the week of aging, and draining the excess liquid. When I tried to unmold the paska, it didn’t want to come out of the loaf pans. Even when I ran a knife around the edges of the pan, it was still stuck firmly to the bottom of the pan. I can only say that it was a mess when I finally got it all out of the mold.

So, I had three problems; first, the amount of paska was way too much for me. Second, it is a lot of work to sieve cottage cheese. And finally, I needed to find a way to unmold the paska after it had aged and drained.

The first problem was easily solved; I divided the recipe in fourths, so that only a single pound of cottage cheese was needed. Now, the recipe reads as follows:

Paska

Nadia Skoblin 1942.

Modified for only one pound of cottage cheese by Errol Crary

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. sieved* cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 1/4 cup fruit**
  • 2 Tbsp raisins**
  • 2 Tbsp chopped almonds

Cream the butter and sugar. Add finely sieved cottage cheese, a cup at a time, mixing well.

Add the fruit and nuts. Pack firmly in a mold. Cover with cheese cloth. Invert (or set in a dish) so it can drain and age a week or longer in the refrigerator. There will be considerable liquor which drains off so empty container often.

May be sliced to serve at the holidays.

I tried breaking up the curd of the cottage cheese in the food processor, and I think that is an acceptable way of “sieving” the cottage cheese. I will admit that my neighbor thought the paska texture was different, and liked the sieved version better. I couldn’t tell the difference. From my perspective, that solved the second problem. Now, I only had the problem of unmolding to solve.

My original direction on solving that problem was to line the bottom of the molds with plastic wrap before I dumped the paska in. But, just as I didn’t want the paska to stick to the mold, nor did the plastic wrap want to stick to the mold. So, when I turned the mold over to drain, the paska fell out. I solved that problem by using nesting plastic containers. After putting the paska in the lined mold, I placed an identical, nesting container on top of the cheese cloth that was on the paska in the first container. Now, I could turn the nested containers over, and the paska would be forced upward by the bottom of the inner container. I would have stopped at this point, but I found that not all nesting plastic containers worked well; some seemed to slope inward too much, and the paska leaked down between the sides of the containers. (I found square blue-top plastic storage containers worked the best, and you would want to use a size that is over 3 cups – 24 ounces for the one pound cottage cheese version).

Paska 7

At this point, I started thinking outside of the box- or mold, and found what I think is the perfect answer- a colander! So now I line the colander with cheese cloth, dump in the paska, place a piece of cheese cloth on top, and then place a weighted dish on top of the top cheese cloth. I would say the only trick left is to find a dish that fairly well covers the surface of the paska without binding on the side of the colander. (My little red colander is measured as a 1.5 quart colander).
Paska 5
The recipe calls for candied fruit; I took that to mean the type of fruit that is in a fruit cake. That is a seasonal item in most stores, and wasn’t available in January when I was first experimenting. So I improvised. I used some dried sweet cherries and Craisins that I had, and diced them down to about ¼ of an inch pieces. That made a pretty red color that was just about right for Valentine’s day when I had hoped to have everything coming together. And, my daughters dislike fruit cake candied fruit, so they were not unhappy with the cherry/Craisin substitution. The main thing to remember no matter what you use is to dice the fruits and nuts down to about ¼ inch.

PicMonkey Collage