Orange and Maple Salt Water Taffy

It used to be obvious when summer was here. The end of June; the end of classrooms; the end of Regents week; the expiration of our student Metrocards; buying coconut Italian ices from a cart on Houston street on the way home from school.

I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong, but getting out of school mid-May complicates things. Freshman year, after a breakfast of froyo, I packed my bags and we drove off into a spectacularly sunny morning, making a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee.

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Orange CarAmels

Freshman year, my roommates and I spent a lot of time discussing pronunciation and American regional dialects. Living with one linguistics major and one most-likely linguistics major, it was pretty inevitable. I’d be sitting in my room flipping through Chinese flashcards, and there would be a knock at my door: an apologetic tap from Katie or a quick ratatat from Liz that made me jump out of my seat every time.

“Say ‘C O T.’ Ok, and say ‘C A U G H T.’” (Definitely two different pronounciations in my book)

“How do you say these words?” Katie hands me a scrap of paper: Dog. Log. Bog. Cog. (All the same to me!)

“Say ‘cherries’ again for me?” (I say cherries with an ‘e’ like ‘pen,’ but their midwestern cherries sound more like chair-ies). Continue reading

Peanut Cashew Brittle

It’s July 13th, and like most of my enchanted generation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the magical world. That is, Harry Potter. I wasn’t one of those kids who sunk into mini-depression when their 11th birthdays were wholly owl-free, but I wished I had gotten a letter cordially inviting me to witch-dom.  In retrospect, it only would have been exciting to get a letter if I were muggle-born. If my parents and siblings and cousins and great uncles were all wizards and witches, an owl would have been humdrum on a scale of 1 to The Boy Who Lived.

But sometimes baking makes me feel like a muggle-born with a Hogwarts letter. Growing up, sugar did all the ordinary things. It teaspooned sweetness into tea, sprinkled over ripe strawberries, turned my tongue blue and my lips green, and fulfilled its duties in cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, and fruit loops.

Then—not exactly at age 11, but I’m flexible—sugar started doing magic for me. Continue reading

Creamsicle Marshmallows and More

Photo by Jen Kaplan

I realized I never showed you pictures of the other desserts I made for Jen’s birthday party. When we started planning the desserts, Jen suggested marshmallows, and I said I could do a double layer. We decided on vanilla and orange, and the duplex dessert tasted exactly like Creamsicle..

I only needed about 60 marshmallows, so I was tempted to make one batch and split it to make two flavors, but I decided to make to full batches to avoid some roadblocks.

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Roadblock 1: What if I’m happily beating orange extract into half of the marshmallows, and the rest of the marshmallow sets in the bowl before I can add vanilla and then I’m stuck with a bowl-shaped mass of unflavored marshmallow?

Well, fine, I’ll make a half batch of vanilla, spread it out in the pan, then make another half batch of orange, and put that on top. That way I won’t have to deal with bowl-shaped marshmallow clumps. Continue reading

Lemonade Marshmallows

It is really freaking hard to photograph marshmallows. I’m no photographer, but if my life purpose is to make you all hungry, I’m going to need some really mouth-watering pictures. If any of you has the photography prowess to help me out, please! My pictures do not live up to my marshmallows. These lemonade marshmallows are so good that even mallowphobes will eat one and reach for another.
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Even my brand-new, super exciting go-to guide for marshmallows, Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats by Eileen Talanian, is a little lacking in the photography department. There is an incredible picture of colorful layered marshmallows, which is also featured on Not So Humble Pie’s review, but overall the pictures are not top notch. Fortunately, the recipes are. Before I bought the book, I did my best to eke out as much as I could from Amazon’s “Look Inside!” function. I liked what I eked. Continue reading

Peppermint Patties

When I saw this post on Savory Sweet Life, I knew we had to make peppermint patties. The recipe is perfect for dorm baking, so I enlisted my roommates and my sister Carmel, who was visiting me for the weekend. We ran into some trouble with ingredients. We were reluctant to buy five dollars worth of Crisco for the recipe’s three measly tablespoons, and peppermint extract isn’t free either. But once you’re in the grocery store with a shopping list, it’s a little late to back out. At that point, you’re really craving that hard chocolate shell with dense peppermint filling.

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Back at the dorm, we scrounged up all the equipment we’d need. Actually, that was mostly my roommate Liz. She came to college prepared for anything, with measuring cups and purple puppy paw teaspoons. See?
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The peppermint filling was the perfect consistency with the full 5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar. We dusted our hands with confectioners sugar and rolled the peppermint dough into balls. Katie made tiny little patties, but the rest of us went supersize. As we were making the patties, Katie suggested eating them plain. She took a bite and seemed to like it, but after I reminded the group that eating naked peppermint patties tastes like brushing your teeth dry, patty consumption dropped dramatically. Continue reading

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

 

Let’s face it: marshmallows just aren’t very good. The flavor isn’t any more complex than powdered sugar, and the texture is unusual, but not super exciting. A plain marshmallow isn’t even worth 23 measly calories. But marshmallows can be doctored up. I love marshmallows toasted to a golden brown over a campfire, with crisp, delicate shells, and ooey gooey insides. They’re so good that they almost make up for being outside, in nature, with bugs and trees and stuff. And I don’t know who invented s’mores, but props. Chocolate, graham cracker, and melted marshmallow is really a combination from heaven.

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I didn’t think a plain marshmallow could ever beat a toasted one, but my first “homemade” marshmallow from City Bakery proved me wrong. City Bakery sells the most heavenly, most ridiculously overpriced marshmallows in the world. They are incredibly light and fluffy, and not too sweet, but why buy them when you can make your own? If you have a candy thermometer (thank you, Aunt Karyn and Uncle Charlie!), and the patience to stand over the stove to keep an eye on the boiling sugar, homemade marshmallows are a piece of cake!
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