In addition to crafting cocktails, I love cooking. At the holiday season, I carry on a tradition started probably more than 50 years ago by my aunts. Making candy. I remember waiting with unbelievable anticipation for the day my Aunt Rita would show up with a recycled Russell Stover’s box full of her homemade candy. It was a gift for my father, but that generous man always shared even his favorite–the coconut balls.
Aunt Rita shared her recipes with me when I was in college and I began spending a few days each holiday season whipping up coconut balls, peanut butter bon bons, and English toffee. Sometimes a friend would join me, but often I worked in the kitchen alone. Twelve years ago, several of my colleagues at the academic medical center physical practice (yes back in my lawyerly days) and I started meeting up for a day of candy making. We dubbed ourselves the Candy Queens.
The tradition continues. I’m getting a few items made today before meeting up with my “sisters.” Like creating and enjoying a cocktail or hosting a happy hour, making candy is all about the friendships and the memories. Of course the candy is delicious, from black walnut fudge, to peanut butter cups, to caramels, to Mexican wedding cookies, to chocolate covered peanut and so much more. But, there has been more than one year when the toffee was chewy not crunchy, or that time we forgot the marshmallow fluff in the fudge or we got snowed out and had to reschedule.
None of those backfires matter. So, as you enter the holiday season, free yourself from the trap of perfection, savor the moments with friends and family and embrace even the biggest mishaps! You never know, you might invent the next greatest drink or appetizer. Or just create a humorous memory.
Cheers from the bar and the stove!!
Aunt Rita’s English Toffee
1 pound salted butter
1 pound chopped walnuts
1 pound light brown sugar
1 pound Hershey’s milk chocolate bars
Grease a 15 x 10 rimmed cookie sheet with butter. Spread nuts on sheet. Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan (do NOT use a non-stick pan), stirring constantly over medium heat. Cook until mixture goes over 290 degrees (monitor with a candy thermometer). Pour quickly over the nuts and spread. Lay chocolate bars on top of toffee. As they melt, spread evenly. Using a metal spatula, score into 2″ squares when still warm. Let cool completely and finish cutting with a knife.