Hard Candy

I fondly remember my mom making lollipops in various flavors for us as kids. My favorite flavors were the cinnamon ones but I also loved the root beer flavor. I recently got into making hard candy, and the candies I made here are lemon flavor.  I haven't made a career out of making hard candy, and honestly never could, but it's an easy and fun way to make some yummy candies at home.

I learned the hard way how bloody hot the syrup is.  Molten sugar on your skin basically feels like you've just poured lava on yourself.  It's not such a good feeling so please be super careful.

There are so many flavor options as well.  I get my flavoring, which come in drams (single recipe servings), and candy molds from LorAnn.  I get my lollipop sticks from a craft store.

They have a million different flavors such as blueberry, caramel, cinnamon, cherry, root beer, strawberry, peppermint, and blackberry.  The coloring is just basic food coloring available at the supermarket.

The molds I use are for both lollipops and jewels.  Lollipops are fun to make for the kiddos.  You can also package them in a cellophane bag and tie with a pretty ribbon for a cute gift or party favor.

Hard Candy

2 c. sugar
2/3 c. light corn syrup
3/4 c. water
1 dram (1 t.) flavoring
couple drops food coloring
candy thermometer (if you have one)
powdered sugar (optional)

Lightly oil molds or a baking sheet (for randomly shaped pieces).

In a large saucepan, mix sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Over medium heat, stir until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil without stirring.

When syrup reaches 260*, add a few drops of food coloring.

Don't stir the mixture.  The boiling will distribute the coloring.

It really won't take long for the color to work it's way through.

If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can test the doneness of the syrup by dropping a few drops of syrup into cold water.

If it forms hard, brittle threads in the cold water, it's ready.

If you have a candy thermometer, you're looking for 300*.  When you reach this stage, remove pan from heat.  When the boiling stops, add the flavoring and stir. Be careful because sometimes it will bubble up and the steam can be pretty potent, especially if you're using a strong flavor like cinnamon.

Pour syrup into molds or baking sheet.  If you use a baking sheet, you can score shapes with a knife after it sets up a bit.

When cool, break apart pieces of candy.  You can dust the pieces lightly with powdered sugar to prevent them sticking together as you store them.  Keep in airtight container.

Enjoy your old fashioned hard candy!


Strawberry Shortcake with Buttery Pound Cake

You know how every once in a while you have those amazing moments with your children that make all the bullshit worthwhile?  I had one of those a few weeks ago with my 8-year old daughter.  It's probably not what you think.  She did not form a charity for autism.  Nor did she save a baby from a burning building. However, what she did was remarkable all the same.

My daughter asked to make Strawberry Shortcake together - from scratch!!  Yes, she specifically said, "Can we make strawberry shortcake but make it all from scratch?  Like the cake and the whipped cream and macerate (although she pronounced it mask-er-ite) the strawberries?"  This will go down in the history of our family as one of my proudest moments as a mom.  I've officially succeeded in making my kids food snobs.  Mama couldn't be prouder.

My other daughter, who is almost 7, loves to cook too so we three piled into my sexy mini-van and headed to the store.  The girls sliced the strawberries, measured the ingredients, and added sugar to the cream as it whipped.  It took for-bloody-ever, and as always it's a lesson in patience to cook with kids.  But it was one of those shining times I'll always treasure.

Strawberry Shortcake with Buttery Pound Cake
Serves 6 (healthy sized portions)

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled, cored, sliced
2 T. sugar

2 sticks butter
6 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1-3/4 c. cake flour
1/2 t. table salt
1-1/4 c. sugar

1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Mix sliced strawberries and sugar in a bowl.  Set aside, covered.

Cut butter into chunks and place in bowl of electric mixer.  You want to bring this to just below room temp.  Beat lightly 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup.  Set aside to come to room temp with the butter.

Heat oven to 325*.  Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Using the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt for 2-3 minutes, until shiny and smooth, scraping down sides.  Very slowly pour 1-1/4 c. sugar into bowl while running on medium high speed.  Let it run for 5-8 minutes, scraping down sides as necessary.  You're looking for a very pale, fluffy butter mixture.  Turn machine to medium and very slowly pour egg mixture into bowl, scraping down sides.  Turn to med-high and let run for 3-4 minutes.  It's ok if it looks slightly curdled.

In three additions, sift the cake flour over the bowl and fold into the butter mixture with a spatula.  Don't over-mix or the cake will end up tough.

Pour into loaf pan and smooth top.  Bake 70-80 minutes until golden brown and passes the toothpick test.  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Turn out and flip so it's right side up on wire rack and let cool 2 hours before slicing.

To assemble Strawberry Shortcakes:

Place cream in clean bowl of mixer.  With whisk attachment, beat until it starts to increase in volume.   Add the vanilla and slowly add the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Place one or two slices of pound cake on plate.  Top with macerated strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe for pound cake adapted from Cook's Illustrated


Corn Chowder

This summer my addiction to corn has reached new heights.  I've eaten so much corn this season I'm pretty sure I'm single-handedly supporting the local farmers.  I've had friends from the past and co-workers emailing me corn recipes (all of which look delicious).  The old lady who sells corn at the end of her farm's driveway has become my new best friend.

When I lived in France, I craved corn something fierce.  Maybe it was my Indiana roots calling me.  Or perhaps it's because so many French people see corn as only a salad topping or feed for the pigs.  I've since made up for losing those 3 years of daily corn.

Summer and hot soup don't really seem to go together.  However, there is nothing better than farm-fresh sweet corn in a steaming bowl of Corn Chowder on a stormy night.  We pair it with a crusty baguette (but then again we pair almost everything with bread).  This chowder is thick and rich and very corny.  So many chowders are overwhelmed by potato flavor, but not this one.  The trick is (gasp!) pureeing canned corn and adding in fresh from-the-cob corn for the, well, fresh corn flavor.  You'll also use the naked cobs to thicken the chowder.

Corn Chowder
Serves 6-8

6 ears corn
2 (15 oz.) cans whole kernel corn, drained (I like Libby's Organic)
5 c. low-sodium chicken broth
5 slices center-cut bacon (or 3 regular)
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and diced 1/2-inch
1 c. heavy cream
4 scallions, sliced thin

Cut kernels from cobs.  An easy way to do this is to cut off one end, set the cob upright, and carefully slice kernels off.  Keep both the kernels and cobs.

Puree the cans of corn in a blender with 2 cups of chicken broth until smooth.

Cook bacon in Dutch oven until crisp.  Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Cook onion, corn kernels, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the bacon grease until softened and golden.

Add potatoes, corn puree, remaining 3 cups broth, and cobs to Dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove and throw away cobs.  Stir in cream, scallions, and bacon.  Season to taste.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Country June/July 09