Lemon Ginger Lozenges, and an Anti-Valentine to Alton Brown

Folks, the equation is simple.

Sugar + Equal Amount of Water + Heat = Candy

Yup.  With no flavoring though, you might as well suck on a sugar cube.

The first time I made this recipe, I gave it as a gift, which was brave considering I had no idea what they would taste like, if they would ship well, or hell, even if they would pack and store well.  They didn’t, by the way.  Because the majority of sugar in AB’s recipe was honey, it still didn’t quite set at hard crack stage, and actually ended up chipping the tooth of a friend who tried to chew on it (whoops!  Her dad’s a dentist though, so it turned out to be OK).

Then, shortly after my mom requested the recipe, I came across this Instructable…And I was so angry with Mr. Brown.

You see, his instructions at the end said to spoon teaspoons of the liquid candy onto parchment paper.  They looked fine in his pictures; in my kitchen, not so much.  And on top of that it was counter to EVERYTHING I had ever learned from him – there might be a process, but if there’s an easy way with the same resulting taste go that route.

Oh, AB.  How could you let me down like this?

Needless to say, this new method not only is much easier in terms of portioning out the candy, but also in storing it.  I love simple solutions, but this one has made me call my favorite TV chef into question.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges

Ingredients

2 c. water

4 tea bags (doesn’t have to be Lemon Ginger, just pick a good flavor of good tea)

2 c. sugar – I used 1 c. turbinado and 1 c. honey

Zest of 1 lemon

Powdered sugar

Method

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a high sided sauce pan and steep the tea bags for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add sugar and turn the stove back on medium low heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally washing the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

    process shot! see I told you I was working on it

  • The mixture needs to read the hard crack stage without the sugar burning, which is between 300 & 310 degrees.  Grab a book, this is going to take forever, but keep a watchful eye on your stove.
  • Before the mixture reaches 310, prepare your candy mold!  Oh my, you don’t have one?  Me neither.  Here’s the handy trick I was talking about.  Get out a pie pan, or a cake pan, or a casserole pan…any shallow-ish pan with sides.  Put some powdered sugar in it, enough to make indentations in, about a half inch to an inch oughta do it.  Then, get out some sort of roundish bottomed thing (like a food coloring bottle, or a glass tube that your vanilla beans came in)…are you seeing where I’m going with this?instant candy mold
  • Go around the pan, making indentations in the sugar, making sure they’re about 1/4 inch apart.  I needed 2 pie pans for the amount of candy I made.
  • When the mixture reaches hard crack stage, remove from heat and add the lemon zest, stirring just to combine.
  • Pour mixture over the mold slowly and watch the magic happen.

    pour slowly to make sure this doesn't happen, but if it does just leave it and break it apart later

  • Allow mixture to cool and harden, about one hour.  Toss the candies with the powdered sugar in the pans, making sure each one is coated thoroughly.  Sift the excess sugar off the candies (or not), and store in a container of your choosing.

HOW EASY WAS THAT?  No parchment paper, no sticky teaspoon…  Alton Brown, why, oh why, did I have to see this on Instructables and not in your book with your recipe?  As I type this I’m finding it very hard not to use caps and unnecessary punctuation.  I am that upset about it.

That being said, I think this would also be good with lemon extract , cinnamon, or any number of flavor combinations.  Just be sure to add them at the end right before pouring into your nifty molds.  Here are some suggestions:

Lemon + Ginger – I would actually add some grated ginger to these next time, as the tea didn’t really carry the ginger flavor through all that well.

Cinnamon + Chai

Ginger + Peach

Black Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Orange

Black Tea + Orange

Mint + Raspberry (think fresh mint and raspberry extract…mmm)

The possibilities really are endless.

Oh and here’s a tip for the dish-doers in the bunch:  To clean, fill the pot with water and bring to boil.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Oh Fudge (Two Ways)

A word about Valentine’s day: I have always loved it, even when I have been single (it’s happened once or twice).  Here’s the big secret behind my enjoyment – I have a lot more love in my life to share with more than just a boyfriend, and I bet you do too.  I know we shouldn’t need an excuse to show loved ones how much we really love them, but let’s face it – sometimes we just do.  We can always do little things here and there (and I hope you do), but Valentine’s Day is really about extravagantly displaying exactly how much we love one another.  It’s an excuse to splurge, whether it’s on calories, or gifts, or time spent doing something.

That being said, each of the recipes I will be posting this week is a labor of love.  They are somewhat time consuming and some require lots of attention.  But while I was waiting for sugar to boil this weekend, I sat by my stove (closer than is probably safe) with a book, and glanced up every sentence or so to check the temperature.  And you know what?  I finished a 400 page book.  True story.  So get in the kitchen, make some fudge, and read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand since Christmas.

just for you

Fudge Two Ways – Candied Ginger and Candied Bacon

I don’t want to go and reinforce gender stereotyping but one of these ways is decidedly more masculine than the other, I’ll let you decide which.

ALTON BROWN’S FUDGE RECIPE

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups sugar

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped, candied ginger or bacon

Directions

  • Grease an 8 by 8-inch pan with butter.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, chocolate, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter, half-and-half, and corn syrup.
  • Over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved and chocolate is melted. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and attach a candy thermometer to the pot.
  • Cook until the thermometer reads 234 degrees F. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter. Do not stir.
  • Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes or until it drops to 130 degrees F. Add vanilla and one cup of other ingredient of your choosing, if desired, and mix until well-blended – AB says mix until the shiny texture becomes matte.  I did this and ended up crystallizing the fudge in the pan and having to melt it back down with a little more half and half.
  • Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Let sit in cool dry area until firm. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Candied Ginger

Ingredients

Nonstick spray

1 pound fresh ginger root

5 cups water

Approximately 1 pound granulated sugar

Method

  • Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a half sheet pan lined with parchment.
  • Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandoline. Place into a 4-quart saucepan with the water and set over medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 35 minutes or until the ginger is tender.
  • Transfer the ginger to a colander to drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
  • Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar.
  • Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.
  • Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top ginger snaps, sprinkled over ice cream or to sweeten coffee.

spicy, sweet, chewy

The Ginger Fudge

Crystallized ginger is very strong flavor-wise, especially when it’s homemade and super fresh.  The spiciness and flavor of the ginger didn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked and if I make this again, I will probably increase the candied ginger to 1 1/2 cups.  So if you’re borderline on ginger, this might be a good starting point.

Candied Salted Bacon – via TheKitchn

Yields:8-12 pieces (depending on package size)

1 package center cut bacon

3/4 cup light brown sugar
Kosher

salt to taste

Method

  • Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with parchment paper or silpat in preparation.
  • Place bacon on cookie sheet, making sure not to overlap any edges.
  • Lightly sprinkle each piece of bacon with brown sugar (1-1 1/2 tablespoons/each) and place cookie sheet in cold oven.
  • Set temperature to 350* and bake 20-25 minutes, keeping an extra careful eye on them starting at the 18 minute mark.
  • Remove from oven and place cookie sheet on wire rack. Sprinkle salt over bacon pieces. Enjoy!

salty, smoky, sweet

See the carmel colored pools around the bacon?  Well, it’s carmel.  And I’m not saying it’s delicious and you should eat all of it…but if you stuck your finger in there after it had cooled a bit and licked it up a few times, I would be in no position to judge you.  Just sayin.

The Bacon Fudge

If you’ve ever been eating a nice pancake breakfast, only to get syrup on your bacon and then not be totally ecstatic about not having to put extra syrup on your plate specifically for this reason – this fudge probably isn’t for you, but I strongly suggest branching out.  Try some syrup on your bacon or sausage and then decide whether or not you want to make the bacon fudge.  I have been putting syrup on my bacon and sausage links since before I can remember.

recipients will have to guess which is which

Granola

So I have a new kitchen obsession, and it’s granola.  I have never been able to find a granola in the store that I found was worth the money, not to mention the calories.  Oh yes, don’t be fooled.  That stuff in the fancy packaging has some serious sugar and packs a lot of calories into quite a small amount.

clumpy

Admittedly, this recipe is not as healthy as the last one I made.  But it is so much better.  I enjoyed the last one.  It was crunchy, nutty, not too sweet, and delicious by itself or with yogurt.  But this takes that and cranks the volume to 11.  Full disclosure, I had a really hard time sharing this with my neighbors.  I did, but it was an inner battle for me.  Also, while I was home I got a lot of compliments on the photography on here, but my neighbor Tim takes the photos you guys are oohing and aweing and drooling over.  His granola was much deserved.

Olive Oil Granola

Makes about 9 cups.

adapted from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/dining/151arex.html

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 C roughly chopped pecans

1 C pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

½ C slivered almonds

3/4 C pure maple syrup

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tspish kosher salt

1/2 tspish ground cinnamon

1/2 tspish ground ginger

3/4 C chopped dried apricots

1 C dried cranberries

Method

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, pepitas, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

2. Allow to cool a bit and then break up the clumps to whatever consistency you like, then toss in the apricots and cranberries.

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