I'm not sure all this cooking is good for me. I'm not talking about my liberal attitude towards butter, sugar, oil, anything fatty or high calorie. I could care less if it adds to my love handles. Love me more then. But spending an entire afternoon perfecting old fashioned sea foam candy, listening to Nicaraguan folklore music, that suggests neurosis. I'm not sure if all the years slaving to the man is the culprit, or if it's simply in my genes to act this way. But sometimes, I can't stop. I have all the time in the world and yet not enough of it. I've taken to practicing yoga for twenty (if I can manage it that long) minutes, several mornings of the week. The calm that prevails after these sessions lasts for about the amount of time I spent doing it (extra if I hold the headstand longer). If I don't feel exhausted, something is amiss. Must stand longer over the stove, bake more, preserve more, grow more, pick more. It's type A liberal hipster hell here on Minnow Creek Lane. It shouldn't happen; and yet it does. Perhaps, in a more positive spin, I simply need to create. As a childless 30-something year old, spare me your psychological interpretations. You just wait and see; a baby isn't going to change much here except for diapers and homemade baby food.
I do it because it feels good. Because I'm a hedonist and I crave pleasure. And making food gives me pleasure (that, and other things that often aren't readily available at 2pm on a weekday). At least I'm not staring at a Bloomberg screen wondering why the Euro is falling. If you've ever tried it, there is very little pleasure in a Bloomberg screen. All those tickers, so little fun. But home crafted sea foam? When I sprinkled the little love dust I mean baking soda, it grew magnificently before my eyes. I stood astonished... and a little bit jealous. So I did it again, three times.
Actually, I didn't do it just to watch it grow, though that would be perfectly understandable. I suck, I burnt the sugar --twice. After watching the thermometer like a hawk instead of drooling with anticipation for the "rise", I got it right on the third try, and it came out near perfect. Perfection arrived after dousing it in chocolate. Ever hear of a Crunchie bar? Violet Crumble? As my husband, who even has a childhood friend nicknamed "Crunchie", so eloquently said after shoving 3 in his mouth before dinner last night, these put Crunchie bars to shame. And then, the feeling arrived; I felt accomplished. And sufficiently pleasured. I could rest.
That is until I went to the market this morning and discovered Orcas grown quince. My senses immediately spun to fruity pink 'dulce de membrillo' and manchego cheese. Or maybe it was the wine and boozy conversation that would undoubtedly accompany it. The quince ended up in the bag and it's simmering away on the stove as I type. This may be the smell of pleasure. At least for today. Until that's done, here's the recipe for the sea foam. DO it. It just feels good.
Sea Foam Candy dipped in Chocolate
The chocolate doubles as a barrier to air, which is the enemy to this toffee/taffy like candy. And if you ask me, it wouldn't be sea foam without the chocolate.
Note: this burns VERY easily so err on the side of underdone -- it can turn into a smoking ball of burning sugar quicker than you can say holy hot balls.
Makes more than you need (I filled a 2-quart jar with several to spare)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons baking soda, sifted to remove any lumps
- High quality chocolate (for melting) - I used 2 parts Callebaut milk chocolate to dark chocolate, but use whatever you like. I used roughly 16 ounces, but I have a very heavy "dip" - I like it chocolatey.
- 1 tablespoon shortening (optional: this helps prevent discoloration or 'sugar bloom' on the chocolate)
Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Make sure the paper goes above the sides by 2-3 inches as the batter expands as much as 6 times in volume. Believe it. Grease the parchment paper lightly with vegetable oil. Set aside. Sift your baking soda into a bowl and set nearby.
In a very large pan (I used my largest oval dutch oven), blend sugars, syrup, water, vanilla, and vinegar, until just mixed. Turn heat to med-low and bring to a boil without stirring. Have a candy thermometer handy or clipped to the side of the pan and watch very carefully. You do not want to stir the mixture as it could cause it to separate -- the boiling will blend it sufficiently. If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in water. Heat to 285 degrees and remove from heat. Let bubbles subside briefly (10 seconds), then quickly add and whisk in baking soda, and mix no further. Be prepared, the mixture will bubble up more than you can imagine and crawl quickly towards the top of the pan. In one swift motion, pour the mixture into the square pan you set aside. If it starts to smoke, or smell burnt, you've heated it too much, and unfortunately, it's trash. But, the good news, is that if you get it right, you've got treats for the whole neighborhood. Or enough to keep your partner shut up for awhile. Now to the dipping.
Once the honeycomb is thoroughly cooled, break it into pieces. If you go to slice it, it will start to naturally break to help you along. Melt all but 2 ounces of the chocolate in a double boiler (I rig a stainless steel bowl over a pan with water in it). Once smooth, add the remaining 2 ounces, and shortening if you're using it, and stir until melted. Remove from heat and get dipping. I used tongs, but fingers are welcome too. Make sure to completely cover in chocolate. Set on waxed paper to set at room temperature. Store in airtight containers.