Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sugar Plums and Alka Seltzer

Spent the afternoon making my yearly Christmas pralines. The house smelled so delicious today, butter and cooked sugar in the air; the caramel,vanilla making my mouth water!

I began this candy cooking party at 12:30 p.m.

It is a mystery to me the little problems I have when I begin my cooking and baking ritual every year. It's not like riding a bike, you tend to forget things that keep you in the seat.

The first batch of candy is always a disaster. (but I never remember this) It's like a practice run. My husband knows this, he counts on it. He waits in the wings to eat the broken and chipped pieces. (I never bring my friends and co-workers broken candy.) He was confident that he would be eating candy after a few minutes, the anticipation was all over him.

This year I thought I had avoided this problem because the first pot of candy looked so beautiful. I stirred and spooned it onto waxed paper, it cooled nicely, it had a nice rounded look, was creamy and brown. Wow, it was darn near perfect.
Hah! Ok, Jan! First one out of the box, ready to plate and wrap! I did it good! No frustration this year!

Well, what do you think?
That candy would not, could not, come off of the waxed paper.
I would not, could not, have done something wrong?
I laid everything out before I starting cooking, had everything in a neat line...spoons, measuring cups, bowls, candy thermometer.....

I forgot to butter the paper.
How could I have forgotten? Such a small detail...
To quote a famous Peanuts character: "AUUGH"!
My husband sat on the couch like a cheshire cat, patiently waiting for me to stop using very unchristmas-like words. He waited for a break in the wailing and moaning, and then he said, "Any mistakes this year...dear"?
He watched quietly as I pulled and tugged, chips flying off in every direction, cracks marring the rounded perfection that I strived for. As the shards flew around the kitchen, I could hear him talking to his friend on the phone, "Well, I gotta go, I think she may need some help." (He already knew what to say to avoid a headless state.)
I mutely handed him a large bowl of pieces and sent him back to the couch. He sat happily munching while I fumed and sputtered.

The second round was not much better.
I buttered another sheet of paper, ran back and forth to the stove to stir the new batch. As the temperature rose to 239, I figured this one was a cinch.


I didn't stir it quite enough, and spooned it out before it had enough air in it. Rushing it? How could I?
This batch was more like soft toffee.

It ran together like a traitor when I spooned it onto the paper-covered counter. *&*#! %$!!!!

This candy had to be scraped back into the pot. Have you ever had to scrape warm sticky candy off waxed paper? It isn't on the top of my list of things to do.
I advise that you stir that candy until you think it's about to set up in the pot, or until your arm falls off.
You wonder why didn't I throw it all away and start over?'s why: cleaned, shelled pecans are $7.00 for 2 1/2 cups.
I kept at it and made 5 batches, 1 1/2 cup of pecans in each. (you can add that total up!)
That pecan price is enough for me to pull up every bit of candy off the counter. I wasn't leaving a man behind on waxed paper!
But, pulling it up it isn't fun and your vocabulary suffers in the process.

I'm done for today, it's 5:03 p.m. and the last of it is cooling on the counter. I haven't checked it yet, the last few pieces, but I know what to expect.
My husband, the official tester of this house, has advised me that it was "sorta chewy", and "not like the perfect spoonful" he tried another batch ago.
He should know....he's eaten enough of the mistakes today to make him a candy genious.

I just saw him go into the bathroom for an alka seltzer.
"I'm just trying to save your Christmas reputation, he said. "Someone has to do it".

As he walked away grinning I heard him add, "what I go through for you!"

He won't sleep tonight, he's had more sugar than the sugarplum fairy locked in a Macy's candy store.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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