I’VE CREATED a monster — thanks to “The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook.” When I brought it home last Halloween, my son was like a kid in a candy shop — if my kitchen was a candy store and my kid the confectioner.
In the year since, it’s been a never-ending series of sweet tricks, homemade treats and not a few handmade marshmallow messes.
What’s a mother to do?
If she’s me, she stocks up on sugar, gelatin and pure vanilla extract, makes sure to have a working candy thermometer and long-handled, heatproof spatula in the house and never says “Oh, fudge!” — because next thing you know, junior’s having another Wonka moment, and it’s one more trip to the store for unsweetened chocolate.
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So, trust me: If my kid can make homemade gummy bears, tea-spiced chai latte lollipops and chocolate-covered coconut-lime bars that taste like Mounds bars (only better), so can you.
For that, I tip my hat to Liz Gutman and Jen King, a couple of Brooklyn-based sugar babies whose sassy sidebars and spot-on techniques help make their “Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook” (Workman, $17.95) one for the ages — whatever your age is.
Making candy isn’t rocket science, or, as my son has proved, even sophomore science. And the fear factor is “totally unwarranted,” says Gutman, who met King when they were students in the pastry-arts program at the French Culinary Institute and founded their candy company, Liddabit Sweets, in 2009.
Sure, she told me, you need to be careful while boiling sugar, “but a hot oven is hotter than any sugar syrup you’d ever cook, and no one’s afraid of baking.” (You are? They offer several simple recipes for classic cakes, too.)
Aware that neophyte candy-makers worry “if you make one mistake, everything’s ruined,” Gutman says: Relax!
I’m with her. Case in point: Liddabit’s Tropical Toffee, my first shot at toffee-making. In which I failed to add the vanilla extract and sea salt to the mix before bringing the boiling toffee ingredients to hard-crack stage. (Reminder: read the recipe through at least twice before you begin!) Instead, I mixed it in after.
Verdict? Delicious. And a “Liddabit” goes a long way.
Liddabit Sweets Tropical Toffee
Makes about 3 pounds
1 pound unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking sheet
4 cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup light rum
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups roasted, salted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped or crushed
1. Generously butter a large (13 x18-inch) rimmed baking sheet and set it aside on a heatproof surface.
2. Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, rum, vanilla and sea salt in a medium-size (4-quart) saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Insert a candy thermometer.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly with a spatula until the mixture reaches 300 degrees (hard-crack stage) and turns a light golden brown (about 10-15 minutes).
4. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the baking soda and macadamia nuts, stirring vigorously (but carefully) to incorporate.
5. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; spread evenly with a heatproof spatula. Allow to cool completely, about 2 hours, then break into bite-size pieces.
Store the toffee, layered with parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks (bring to room temperature before serving).
Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times’ food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.