Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Christmas Crunchie

An even more successful experiment from the kitchen this winter was my attempt at making a Crunchie. No, that's not an exercise (although we certainly needed more exercise after polishing off the Crunchies). When we lived in England, we got hooked on Crunchies. Probably the only Cadbury chocolate product that I truly crave, it's a crunchy, honeycomb candybar dipped in chocolate.

Each year for Christmas, I buy one to put in Jim's stocking. Usually, I have good luck finding them at CostPlus World Market but they seemed to be lacking in the usual Brit food this year (couldn't get a plain HobNob to save my life). So, what's a gal to do but make her own?

I had collected some recipes last year for honeycomb candy but hadn't gotten around to making it, fearing the horrendous mess it might make judging from the stories many other novice honeycomb makers reported. The recipe is quite simple but there is a point where the candy can boil over in spectacular fashion (think science project volcano), so if you choose to attempt this at home, be sure to use a much bigger pot than you think you'll need. And don't even try it if you have one of those glass-top stoves that doesn't take kindly to molten sugar all over it.

I'm happy to report that my experience was a good one. Not only did I not create a mess in the kitchen, the honeycomb was delicious. Too delicious. I had to dip it in chocolate just to stop eating it. And that only worked while I was waiting for the chocolate to dry. I boxed some up to put in the stocking and then proceeded to hide the rest, lest Jim discover it before Christmas morning or I eat it all on my own.

Christmas morning came and I knew I'd succeeded in recreating the Crunchie when Jim declared it the best present of all. And I got the gift of leftovers (something that never happens when there's just one Crunchie in the stocking).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Buddha's Hand Redux

This past winter, I once again lucked upon a Buddha's Hand in one of our specialty grocery stores.

Despite it being essentially a juiceless lemon, I'm drawn irresistably to its shape and its scent. I didn't have time to make candied lemon peel this year, so I went with a popular but quicker use for this crazy citron: Buddha's Hand vodka.

Although we don't drink much vodka and tend to roll our eyes whenever we see the flavored vodkas in the liquor store (toasted marshmallow vodka--really???), it seemed like this might be one flavor worth putting in the mix for our cocktail experiments. And it could hardly be easier: slice the Buddha's Hand, scrape away the excess pith, add to bottles, and fill with vodka.

After letting it sit for 30 days, we gave it a try. Still a very harsh vodka taste but it had promise. Back to the bottles for a bit more time to let the subtle Buddha's Hand flavor try to overcome the dominant vodka.

A month later, it's still harsh but getting better. I don't know if it will ever be good on its own but I think it can be a decent mix-in. One combo we found that definitely did not work was a gin-based drink. Probably will work better with something sweeter. Anyone have any good suggestions? We have enough to practice with for quite awhile.

If nothing else, it sure is pretty to look at--and the Buddha's Hand peel is really tasty after being soaked in booze for a couple of months....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring is here

The ducks are back, earthworms are getting it on in the driveway, the beaver is bodysurfing the creek after a night of chopping down hazelnut canes, the frogs were leaping all over the rain-soaked road last night (Leap Day, of course)....

Checked on the bees today. The weak hive didn't make it (no surprise here--simply not enough bees to make it through the winter). But the bees in the strong hive, a.k.a., the New Girls on the Block, are ramping up fast. I'll have to split them before long to head off any inclinations toward swarming. Love seeing the queen doing her thing with lots of brood already in process and loads of pollen coming in. The bees are also robbing the dead hive of its remaining honey stores so it will not go to waste.

These 70-degree days make me think it won't be long before the snakes are back and then it won't be long before we see the box turtles again. Ahhhhhhhh.....Spring!