The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.
Every Daring Bakers challenge is revealed at the beginning of the month. I saw that the challenge was nougat back at the beginning of March, yet I let March 27th sneak up on me and the 25th was the day I remembered that I needed to complete the challenge! Thankfully I had everything I needed for this delectable almond nougat and was able to get it done in time. Whew!
I used a recipe from Martha Stewart for French Almond Nougat. The recipe included with the challenge called for cocoa butter, which I did not have, and Martha’s called for butter, which I always have in abundance.
This is something I probably would never have made without the push from Daring Bakers. I know I’ve said the same thing before. Candy can be hard, messy and often not worth the time and effort. But sometimes it can be amazing! Unfortunately I bombed this candy challenge and ended up with some sweet and delicious puddles of nougat instead of the lovely bars I was hoping for.
My problem could’ve been one of two things. Either I didn’t cook the sugar to the correct stage (although the thermometer said the temp was right, maybe my thermometer is off), or I didn’t let it harden enough before taking it out of the pan. After taking it out and as I began to cut the nougat into strips I could tell it was going to start oozing. I tried to form the long strips back into bars, occasionally going into the kitchen and pressing them back together from their puddling state, but after a while I admitted failure and let them ooze. They never actually hardened anymore which leads me to believe that my temperatures must have been off when cooking the sugar. Anyone have a great recommendation for a candy thermometer? The one I have I bought at the grocery store and cost be $2…
This is another view of what my cubes of nougat turned into as time passed. It’s really pretty humorous. They did taste good, but the texture was way off.
I refuse to count this challenge as a total loss since I did try something new, and am already planning to try it again and redeem myself. Thanks for getting me to try my hand at nougat, Rebecca!
There is a story behind these tasty treats. This was my second batch. Not because the first was so delicious that it was eaten up before I could take any photos, though. The first batch was an “Eat at your own risk” kind of candy thanks to an overcooked caramel that could probably have taken a tooth out. I pride myself in being pretty good in the kitchen. I’m not afraid of recipes that require some skill because I think that I have pretty good kitchen skills. I know fancy cooking words and know the science behind some baking do’s and don’ts. My first time making this caramel was a humbling experience, to say the least. And we all need those experiences from time to time to keep us from thinking that we’re real good at something.
Some things to know before making these candies.
Lesson 1: Do not overcook your caramel! Be patient and attentive, watch it like a hawk! Candy is not forgiving.
Lesson 2: Go buy yourself a decent candy thermometer if you have any intention of ever making candy. It is a necessity.
Lesson 2: Use a heat proof spoon to avoid losing half of the plastic part of your spatula in the hot caramel.
Lesson 3: Use parchment on your pans to make removing the finished caramels a breeze.
Lesson 4: Have everything you need ready to go so that making the caramel and assembling the candies is quick and easy.
I found this recipe on a blog called Alaska from Scratch. It was my first time stumbling upon the site and it’s one I’ve now added to my blog reader. The only thing I did differently was to use a different chocolate. I was fortunate enough to come across Ghirardelli melting wafers at Target. I think I might have audibly gasped as I saw them on the shelf. It was a Christmas miracle! It is way better than candy bark. It hardens nicely, is easy to work with and actually tastes like chocolate. They have white chocolate too! Stock up. I know I’m going to.
Giving handmade gifts at Christmas is something I really love doing. Sometimes you know someone well enough to know they need a particular item, but other times you’re not sure what to get for someone and you don’t want to get them something they’re not going to use or that they’re going to throw out. Food is almost never a bad gift idea. It only takes up space for a short time, and the recipient is guaranteed to enjoy it. These candies are a great gift to give. Pack them into normal sized mason jars or cute baby ones if you’re giving them with something else or in a basket of other goodies. You could easily use walnuts or almonds instead of pecans. You could also make some with white chocolate and pack a few of each together.
The caramel recipe is fairly simple, but be sure to keep a watchful eye on it and stir is constantly. Make sure to have your pecans toasted and set up for topping before you even start the caramel. Getting the chocolate melted before you start the caramel is also a great way to make the process fast and smooth once the caramel is done. If you have another set of hands, set up a little assembly line. The caramel does begin to thicken up and harden after you remove it from the heat so it’s important to work quickly. If it does get too thick to drizzle onto the pecans, you can warm it (stirring constantly) over low heat until it thins a bit. I had extra caramel that I spread onto some parchment, let cool and cut into little pieces. The consistency was much different than the caramel on the candies since I’d warmed it again a couple times. Another example of how finicky candy can be even with just a little more cooking. It still tasted great, but wasn’t gooey like it should be.
The pecans are crunchy and delicious, the caramel is sweet, rich and gooey, the chocolate is nice and smooth and the little bit of salt on top is perfection. These are wonderful little treats. Enjoy!
Caramel Pecan Turtles with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or nonstick silicone mats.
Arrange pecans in clusters of 3, 2 next to each other and one on top, on the parchment. They shouldn’t be too close so that the caramel does not run together.
In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter, sugar, honey, salt and condensed milk together, stirring occasionally.
You can begin to melt the chocolate in the microwave according to the package instructions while the caramel starts to cook.
Once everything has melted together increase the heat to medium high and attach your candy thermometer to the pan. Do not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan, you will not get a correct temperature reading. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a heat proof spoon.
The moment the temperature reaches 234°F, remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla.
Spoon the caramel onto each pecan cluster, just enough to coat, a little more than a teaspoon. If at first the caramel seems too runny, just stir and let it cool and thicken slightly. Resit the urge to cook it any longer!
Finish melting the chocolate (or maybe someone was doing this for you while you did the caramel!) then spoon the melted chocolate on top of the caramel. Sprinkle each with a little sea salt and allow to set completely before eating or packaging up to give as gifts.
I was so embarrassed after I tasted the final fudge disaster. It was hard, crumbly and pretty much inedible. How can someone with some tiny bit of culinary sense, a relatively competent mind, and a candy thermometer screw up fudge? Well, I did it!
So, you may want to discontinue reading this blog, unless you want to feel better about yourself and laugh at the woman who couldn’t make something yummy using peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. I am ashamed!
I felt the need to redeem myself.
My original inspiration was marshmallow fluff. But now it’s getting serious and I just need a spectacular Peanut Butter Fudge. So, I tried this recipe from Alton Brown. It uses the microwave and doesn’t require a candy thermometer. I was a little skeptical, but the recipe was highly rated, and his recipes have always turned out pretty great when I’ve tried them in the past.
The final product was creamy, sweet, rich and while not seeping with peanut butter flavor, was very good. It was also incredibly easy. If you’re planning to make treats for people this Christmas, or need something to add to a cookie tray, this is an easy and yummy fudge.
Peanut Butter Fudge
(courtesy of Alton Brown)
1 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound (about 3 and 3/4 cups) powdered sugar
Microwave butter and peanut butter for 2 minutes on high.
Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes.
Add vanilla and powdered sugar to peanut butter mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.
Pour into a buttered 8 by 8-inch pan lined with waxed paper.
Place a second piece of waxed paper on the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool.
Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Marshmallow Fluff is one of those things that should probably never have been invented. It wouldn’t have been invented by anyone but Americans. I love the stuff. A friend of mine in high school grew up in Boston and began bringing “Fluffernutters” for lunch and I was amazed! Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiched in between two slices of white bread. Perfection…in a weird way.
I had a jar of Fluff in the pantry. Do not ask me why. Someone must have snuck it into my shopping cart. So I found this recipe for peanut butter fudge that uses a jar of the sticky and almost sickeningly sweet white goop.
This wasn’t the best fudge I’ve ever made. A few years ago I used this recipe from Rachel Ray with terrific results. I made a few batches; chocolate with peanuts and raisins, and white chocolate with cranberries and pistachios. Both were delicious and simple. The recipe can be easily adapted. Change the chips to white, or peanut butter, and then add in the same amount of any nut, chopped candies or dried fruit. Endless options!
I might try to create a peanut butter fudge using the Rachel Ray recipe. This recipe produced good tasting fudge, but it was very dry and crumbly. I am pretty confident that I did something wrong. It tastes OK, but maybe not good enough to waste a whole lot of calories. It may end up in the trash. I don’t do that often, but when I have a choice between delicious cookie swap cookies and dry sugary fudge…it’s not exactly a tough decision. If you want to try this and tell me what I did to make such a rock hard pan of sugar, please do!
I saw this confection at Wal-Mart the other day, and I was intrigued. I was also impressed that Wal-Mart was selling something so trendy and chic… in the world of chocolate anyway. The bar is made by Chuao Chocolatier.
Online this bar goes for $6.00 a piece. I got mine at Wal-Mart for $4.00! Anyway, I was not expecting to like this combination of dark chocolate, chipotle, salt and popping candy…aka Pop Rocks! Pop Rocks? Even if I didn’t like it, I didn’t care. How could someone not at least try something with Pop Rocks in it? I hadn’t had Pop Rocks in a while, and I knew there was no better time than now to have them as an adult. This is an “adult” candy bar. The dark 60 % cacao chocolate, spicy chipotle and salt would not appeal to many kids.