Monthly Archives: February 2017

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Last year, my husband brought home some delicious toffee. I’m not a huge fan of toffee or candy in general, but this was quite amazing. What I loved about the toffee was the texture – each piece was crunchy but not jaw-breaking, light and not too dense. The toffee also had a nice layer of dark chocolate and some chopped mixed nuts on the top. Overall it was delicious and it inspired me to work on a recipe for it.

Making toffee isn’t difficult, but it does require some attention and timing, as sugar can be a little tricky to work with during the candying process. I find that adding some corn syrup helps prevent crystallization in the sugar. Also, make sure you turn off the heat once you hit soft crack phase, which is at 285°. 300° is hard crack, and some people would argue that it needs to hit this temperature in order to be proper toffee. I my opinion, 300° makes of the toffee a little too hard. Finally, another trick I use is adding a little baking soda to the recipe, which helps lighten up the toffee. With some extra dark chocolate and mixed roasted nuts on top, you won’t be able to have just one piece. Enjoy!

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Yield: About 1 1/2 lbs.

Non-stick baking spray

1 cup of unsalted organic butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of organic corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

6 1/2 ounces of finely chopped dark chocolate, preferably 65% cacao

1/2 cup of salted and roasted mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and cashews), finely chopped

Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt

 

Special Equipment:

1/4 sheet pan (8 1/2″ x 11″ at the base)

Parchment paper

Candy thermometer

Wooden spoon

Pastry brush

Water

Off-set spatula

1. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to 8 1/2″ x 11″ to fit the bottom of the baking sheet. Line the baking sheet and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

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2. Have the vanilla extract and baking soda ready in small mise en place bowls.

3. Add the butter,  sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium heavy-bottom copper or an enamel coated cast iron pot. Heat on medium.

4. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring. Then attach the candy thermometer.

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5. Get a small bowl of water and a pastry brush ready. Set aside.

6. Stir the toffee mixture occasionally as the temperature reaches 285° on the candy thermometer. You will stir about five different occasions. Do not overstir or the toffee will separate. Also, during this process, you will use the wet brush to mix in any sugar mixture that comes up along the sides of the pan. This helps prevents crystallization.

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7. Once the temperature reaches 285°, immediately remove the pot from the stove and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The baking soda will help lighten the toffee.

8. Pour the toffee mixture on the prepared parchment-covered baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet a couple of times. Let the toffee cool for 2 minutes.

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9.Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate evenly over the toffee. Let it sit for 1 minute.

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10. Using an off-set spatula, gently spread the melted chocolate.

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11. Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the melted chocolate. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt. Using another piece of parchment paper to gently press the nuts into the chocolate.

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12. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

13. When is the chocolate has hardened, remove the toffee from the refrigerator. Peel off the parchment paper.

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14. Break it up into bite-size pieces.

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15. Store in an airtight container. You can also place them in small cellophane bags for gifts.

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Jajangmyeon

Growing up, we’d often order jajangmyeon at our local Korean-style Chinese restaurant. Jajangmyeon is a traditional Korean noodle dish that is a combination of pork and wheat noodles in a black bean sauce. It originated in China but made its way to South Korea with Mandarin Chinese immigrants, who adapted the dish for the Korean palette. The Korean version has more sauce and a richer flavor, and usually has less fat on the pork and in the sauce.

One of my fondest food memories was watching the chef hand-pull the noodles, transforming the dough into even strands of beautiful noodles by pulling, stretching and twisting it in the air. I was in awe whenever I watched the chef perform his magic, as the noodles danced and floated in front of him until they were the perfect thickness. He did this all for a single bowl of jajangmyeon. Today, most Korean-style Chinese restaurants serve jajangmyeon with factory-made noodles, so finding hand-pulled noodles is a real treat.

My version of jajangmyeon is a healthier version of the dish, as I use less oil and and leaner pork to try and cut down on the fat. I also pre-marinate the pork, which ensures tender pieces of meat. This sauce is rich and full of great flavor, and I love to eat a big bowl of these noodles with a side of cabbage kimchee or takuan. Enjoy!

Jajangmyeon

Serving Size: 4

Sunflower oil or organic canola oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped into 1/2″ in pieces

1/2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2″ pieces (3/4 cup)*

1 small Yukon gold potato, 1/2 ” dice (3/4 cup) – parboiled for 5 minutes

8 ounces of par-cooked, marinated pork (recipe below)

2/3 cup of fermented black bean paste**

2 teaspoons of organic sugar

1 tablespoon of organic soy sauce

1 1/2 cups of water

2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch

22 ounces of fresh jajangmyeon noodles or Chinese wheat noodles (medium thickness)**

1/2 cup of julienned cucumbers (seeds omitted)

 

1. Heat a wok to medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, add all the chopped onion. Sauté for about 3 minutes until the onion becomes translucent.

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2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil.
3. Add the cut zucchini pieces to the wok with the onions. Sauté for 2 more minutes.

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4. Add the par-cooked pork and potatoes to the wok.

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5. Add the black bean paste. Stir to incorporate.

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6. Add the soy sauce, sugar and water and bring it to a boil.

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7. Meanwhile, add the noodles into the boiling water. Follow the instructions on the package. Rinse and set aside. (You want to time the noodles so they will be ready when the sauce is done)

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8. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Stir into the sauce.

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9. Cook and stir until thickened.

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10. Divide the noodles evenly into four bowls. Ladle a generous amount of sauce into each of the bowls. Top with some julienned cucumbers and serve with cabbage kimchi.

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* When cutting the zucchini, remove the center seedy potion.  The section with the seeds becomes mushy when cooked. Then dice the  zucchini to 1/2″ pieces as shown.

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**  Fermented black bean paste and jajangmyeon noodles can be found at your local Korean supermarket.

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Marinated pork recipe 

8 ounces of lean pork chuck or tenderloin

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch

1 teaspoon of organic soy sauce

1 teaspoon of Shoxing wine or Sake

 

1. Dice the pork into small pieces just shy of 1/2″

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2. Place the cut pork in a small bowl and sprinkle with baking soda. Mix well and let it sit for 10 minutes (I would suggest using a timer for this step because you do not want exceeded the time allotted or the pork will be too tender.)

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3. After the 10 minutes, add the cornstarch, soy sauce and the wine. Stir and let sit for 2 minutes.

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4.Meanwhile heat a wok to high. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once oil gets hot, add the marinated pork. Leave undisturbed for 30 seconds.

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5. Using a wooden spoon stir and sauté for about one minute.
Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.

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