Yesterday, like most of December (and November, and October), it rained like there was no tomorrow. I had planned to move the sawdust from the pile to the chicken coop, the chick nursery, and the turkey coop. I managed to complete some of the task but then, soaking wet and miserable, and still facing a mountain of sawdust, I succumbed and came inside.
I have not had time to do anything Christmasy yet this season, and have been wondering if I would ever get to it. Finally, I’d had enough of this weather. Why fight it? Today is my chance to justify staying inside and do some Christmas baking–and bake I did. I managed to make two batches of shortbread, three different kinds of butter tarts–chocolate chip, raisin, and pecan–and two different kinds of my favourite toffee.
The original toffee recipe simply calls for nuts on top, and it is delicious! However, after making one batch, I thought it ‘needed’ something. Without snow on the horizon (and getting really tired of looking at dark, dank, bleak days), I was hankering for some ‘Christmas cheer’ and snow. I spent last year in Saskatchewan where there was no shortage of that Christmas cheer–endless bright snowy days and a beautifully decked out city-scape. Here in little old Bella Coola, if you are hankering for Christmas cheer, you have to do it yourself. We are never guaranteed snow at this time of year and there is no ‘city-scape’ to speak of.
Looking down at the freshly made pan of toffee, I thought, ‘This could be it. This may be the only chance I get at seeing ‘snow’ this Christmas! This toffee needs some cheer and color, and it needs snow.’ Hunting around the cupboards searching for red and white lurkers, I found just the thing I desired: dried cranberries and coconut ‘snow’. I set to making another batch, added the ‘Christmas cheer’ topping, and felt instantly satisfied: the new look was appropriately festive, satisfied my creative spirit, and made the taste more complex and lovelier than usual.
Howling Duck Ranch’s Christmasy Chocolate Butter-nut Toffee
So easy, so yummy, Merry Christmas!
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
6-8 oz (175 g package) chocolate chips (or better chocolate, here we sometimes use Calebault or Harden House)
1/4 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts if you prefer, but I like pecans)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
handful of sweetened coconut
Combine sugar and butter in pot, cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until candy thermometer reaches 300F or a small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms brittle strands (25-30 mins or so–and you could always do the snow test!). Spread on waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy: let stand 5 mins. Spread melted chocolate evenly over candy; sprinkle with chopped nuts, cranberries and coconut ‘snow’. Cool completely and break into pieces. Store in tin. YUM.