Friday, July 8, 2011

A Most Inconvenient New Hobby

I woke up last Wednesday and decided I was going to make something.

I made coffee, but this did not satisfy the impulse, even though I used a cone filter and that usually makes me feel appropriately fussy and involved in the process. I went for my bike ride and tried to shake the urge.

Saturday I was sitting at Tex n Shirley's with my Jabronis, eating my favorite corn pancakes and trying not to sulk about the fact that I had missed out on yet another Saturday morning long run. The desire to make something got louder, and louder, and then said, quite clearly, "Make candy."

I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to make the crunchy sugar things that The One With Manners brings back from Esther Price in Ohio. I didn't know how to do this. For all I knew, it was very difficult.

But it was goddamned gonna happen.

I went back to the house I was petsitting at, took the dogs out, and looked it up online. I surmised that it was called 'honeycomb candy' and the recipe was, like, 4 ingredients, which reassured me.

Then I spent 2 hours trying to find a candy thermometer within driving distance. I called many stores, and had this exact conversation:
"Hi, do you sell candy thermometers?"
"Thermometers that go over 300 degrees? Most meat thermometers stop at 220..."
"Uh, lemme check..."
(Five plus minutes of hold music.)

I finally broke down and called the notoriously expensive specialty store that they say you have to pay $20 just to walk into. And I had this conversation:
"Hi, do you sell candy thermometers?"
"Yes, we do."

I was so relieved that I didn't even ask how much it was before I jumped in my car and drove to buy it. And it turned out to be about $12, totally reasonable considering that some of the completely inappropriate meat thermometers were upwards of $30. And this wasn't the first time I'd wished for a candy thermometer, so I consider it a good investment.

A quick stop at the Food Lion for the rest of my extraordinarily cheap supplies, and I was ready to go.

Weapons Assembled. Status: Battle Ready

So according to the internet, I mix 3/4 cup of sugar with 3 Tablespoons of honey or corn syrup and 4 Tablespoons of water. Obviously I wanted to use honey because it tastes better and is better for you. Also, bees are cool.
I make perfectly geometric shapes and communicate by dancing!

So I mixed all of those things together in a pot, and put it on the stove on high heat with my nifty thermometer clipped to the side. The internet said DON'T FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STIR so I didn't stir.

After a couple of minutes, this is what it started looking like.

This is when I should have taken it off the stove.

This is when I actually took it off the stove.

This shit was nasty, y'all...

So I burned the first batch, but that's okay. It was my first time and no one but The Beast was watching me. I waited for it to stop being the temperature of lava, and then broke it up and threw it away. I may have tossed some other pieces of trash over it in case, you know, someone went through the trash and felt like laughing at me for it.

I put all my ingredients back together and started over.
Round 2... FIGHT!

So, the really cool thing that I was entirely unable to photograph because both my hands were busy is what happens when you dump the baking soda into the pot. You wait till the sugar-honey-water starts to turn a certain color and then you quick-quick-quick pull the pot off the heat and throw in the baking soda. Then as immediately as humanely possible, you whisk - but not too much - and magic happens.

Well, Alton Brown would say it was science.

It immediately turns this whitish brown foamy color like the foam you see on the beach after the tide goes out and expands very, very rapidly. So then you have to dump it onto your baking sheet, which you have already coated with enough butter to make Paula Deen think it was edible. You have to dump it quick because it has already started cooling and pretty soon you won't be able to dump it.

Also don't let it touch your skin because it's lava.

Delicious, delicious lava.

Totally looks like the surface of the moon, right?

Then you walk away from it for a little while. I contented myself with watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which serendipitously was on television. After about half an hour, it was cool and hard and I broke it up into pieces, trying not to crush the pores out of it.

Like soldiers, ready for battle.

So then I covered them all in chocolate. I made dark chocolate peppermint, and chocolate peanut using extra crunch Jiff peanut butter.

And now I have a hobby that is most damaging to my waistline. If anyone wants candy, please tell me, because it's so fun to make and sodalishus but I am eating way too much of it.

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