I sidled up to this week’s short and tweet choices uncertain as to whether I was really going to do them. I haven’t made many sweets. I had a go at making marshmallows last year, but they weren’t that good. I have quite strong memories of disastrous fudge adventures when I was a child, the sort where you end up drinking the fudge, but basically all that boiling sugar gives me the heebie jeebies. I asked people what pans they used, lurked a bit on Twitter, hoping to see someone else do it and glean the secrets that way. But it was today or not at all this week. So here they are!
The great thing about making both these recipes is that they were really quick to do: a pleasant change from bread baking!
I showed the recipes to Brian and he offered to put all the stuff out if I walked the dogs and he offered to help. When I got back there was this very neat mise en place waiting for me. I also really wouldn’t do this sort of stuff without someone there next to me to hold my burnt hand under the cold water tap. I am a coward I admit it.
But now, I’m smirking and have had a bit too much sugar to eat, as we made both of these and they not only worked but they taste fabulous!
The cardamom peanut brittle was the most exciting to make, anxiously watching the sugar thermometer climb up to the right temperatures and then the whoosh of the foaming toffee which we managed to catch just as a few peanuts began to burn. Evidence Matters tweeted encouraging notes all the way through, I felt like she was really in the kitchen with me, and helpfully suggested cutting it with a pizza wheel just at the right moment.
Brian beamed with happiness and said that he hadn’t had home made peanut brittle since his Gran (remember her?) made it for his Dad. The salt and the cardamom stop it from being sickly sweet and a small piece definitely makes you want more. I might make it again with almonds or pistachios and smash it up for praline, but not today. I”m sugared out.
Having made the peanut brittle we moved on to the sesame ginger halva. Now I’m never too sure about halva, it has that strange crystalline texture, almost sharp and it can be very oily. But I figured that if I didn’t try it this time, I probably never would. It was simpler than the brittle, not so dramatic, and you don’t have to heat the sugar syrup so high.
I found that it is much, much nicer than the stuff you buy, more fudgey and less sharp and scratchy to eat. Though I did read something on the net that said the crystalline texture develops after a couple of days….
If you decide to have a go at this, I would say you definitely need a sugar thermometer. I think they are a good investment if you ever want to make jams or marmalade or any of these things. The quantities in both recipes are not huge, so don’t use too big a pan. I could have done with a smaller pan as I ended up tipping my pan up on edge slightly in order to get the thermometer bulb in the syrup.
For the halva we used a fresh jar of Cypressa tahini. We didn’t stir the oil that sits on the top back in, but took the more solid stuff out and used that. We added it to the sugar syrup just before it got to temperature and then beat it like mad for a short time and it changed state quite quickly becoming sort of creamy and grainy, before putting it into the foil. We cut it when it had cooled down.It has a fudgey texture today, I don’t know if it will change over time. It will be interesting to see if it does. In terms of the colour of the final product, it might look a bit darker than the one in the book but mine lightened up as it cooled and firmed up.
That was such fun, if a bit excessive on the sugar side. And it’s so interesting to have a go at doing something that you would never think of trying usually. If you want to join in and have a little tweety support while you do, sign up to Twitter and tweet to @Evidencematters using the hashtag #shortandsweet in your tweet and we can all support each other over there. Or if you just want to join in without tweeting, leave a comment on Evidence Matters tumblr blog with a link to a photo or whatever you want to share and you can be included that way too.
The recipes are in Dan Lepard’s new book Short and Sweet, one for your Christmas list if you haven’t already got your copy. It’s a friendly, intelligently written baking book and I thoroughly recommend it and the price has gone down today too!