Ultimate English Toffee

We couldn’t let Christmas come and go without reposting this. It’s one of our earliest posts, but one of our very favorite recipes and something we make every single year for family parties. It just may be the toffee of your (my) dreams and while I may be indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, once you try it, you’ll know that I might be dramatic, but I am not a liar. In the past, I proclaimed this Salted Caramel Sauce the best thing ever and I stand by that. It’s just that there’s room on the pedestal for that sauce’s cousin from across the pond, real English toffee.  

FACT: This toffee is so good, it caused this face from Loki, this one from Arya, and best of all, this one from Matt. Okay, nerd business done.

While other toffee types are available, this toffee is hard and brittle, and thin enough that you won’t need a tiny hammer to break it up.

Why This Toffee Works

I’ve made a lot of toffee recipes over the years and this one is by far the tastiest and the easiest. It not only has a really nice balance of sweet and salty but a clever secret. The addition of a very small amount of corn syrup pretty much eliminates the danger of the sugar crystallizing (this has happened to us a few times, and can be a real bummer). This problem is caused when the sugar crystals start a chain reaction of crystallization (the process of sugar particles clinging together) which makes the mixture grainy. Once it happens there’s not much you can do about it, but there are a few things that will help prevent it from starting.

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Marinated Goat Cheese with Garlic and Thyme

Marinated Goat Cheese with Garlic and Thyme

For an almost effortless way to a more interesting cheese platter, marinate fresh goat cheese in olive oil with herbs and spices. Use it as a topping for crackers, a spread for sandwiches, or crumbled into salads.

Tangy and creamy, fresh goat cheese (also known as chèvre) is delicious right out of the package, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get creative with it. Marinating it in extra-virgin olive oil with flavorings like garlic, thyme, fennel seed, and lemon peel infuses it with flavor. It can be used the way a regular goat cheese would: crumbled in salads, spread on a warm baguette as part of a sandwich, or, our favorite, served simply with crackers.

Marinated Goat Cheese with Garlic and Thyme
Garlic, lemon peel, pink peppercorns, red chili flakes, bay leaves and fennel seed

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Sweet and Spicy Candied Peanuts

Sweet and Spicy Candied Peanuts

Ah, nuts! These Sweet and Spicy Candied Peanuts strike the perfect balance of sweet and heat. They’re great for snacking or for adding a special touch to soups or salads. 

I initially made these candied peanuts because I wanted something extra fancy to top our Thai Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup. While I love croutons, they didn’t seem quite right for this for some reason. So it needed to be crunchy and salty of course, but also with a little sweetness. And it needed to be savory too, something that wouldn’t get lost in the rich flavor of the soup.

I know, I know. So demanding. Nothing could deliver all those things at once, right? Wrong!

Spicy curry candied nuts do and they’re a cinch to make.

Thai Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup
The sweet and spicy nuts are a perfect topping for the rich, smooth soup.

So … from these humble beginnings comes the greatest snack food in the history of pretty much everything. I’m not even kidding. Candied peanuts are unbelievably good.

The crunchy coating has that perfect balance of salty and sweet, and an almost toffee-like flavor from the mix of white and brown sugars that caramelize in the oven. The savory heat comes from a mix of spices, including Madras curry powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and cinnamon. These are not sear-your-tongue spicy, more like a warm heat but you should definitely put your own spin on it.

Spices for Candied Nuts
Clockwise from top: granulated garlic, cumin, coarse salt, cinnamon, cayenne and Madras curry powder.

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Lemongrass and Lemon-Peel Infused Vodka

Lemongrass and Lemon-Peel Infused Vodka

Did you know that if you put tasty things into vodka (or gin) and let it steep for a while in a cool, dark place you wind up with vodka (or gin) that tastes like whatever delicious thing you put in it?

I can’t believe I’ve never done this before and, to be honest, I’m a little mad that you guys didn’t tell me about this sooner. Has everyone been drinking delicious infused cocktails for years and hiding it from me? I’m shocked and appalled and I demand you send me your favorite infusion combinations this instant so I can make them, photograph them and put them all over the internet.

Anyway, this one was inspired by our dear friend’s son who just twenty minutes ago was an adorable little baby and is now about to graduate from college. This handsome former-baby (Hi Jesse, don’t kill me!) is clearly an entrepreneur because he makes delicious lemongrass-infused vodka in his dorm room closet. 

[Leans on walker and adjusts ear-trumpet] Ha, kids these days! When I was in college, we thought it was très classy to remove the paper bag from the bottle of Jaegermeister before chugging it. So fancy!

Lemongrass and Lemon-Peel Infused Vodka
Peel the lemongrass until you reach the pale green, almost-white layers.

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Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Oatmeal Lace CookiesOatmeal Lace Cookies. So pretty. So crispy. They get their name from the fact that they are so delicate, you can almost see through them – like lace. Fancy!

These oatmeal lace cookies have always had a hallowed place in our holiday gift-bag lineup, along with pecan crescents and English toffee with chocolate. They’re a lot of fun to make and are always a great hit.

I actually have two different recipes that I use for Lace cookies (I’ll blog the other one another time) but I prefer this version for the holidays because it makes a slightly less fragile cookie.  That means you can actually give them as gifts without worrying that they will become a pile of oat dust by the time someone receives them. “Happy Christmas, friend! Enjoy!” (Friend opens box, sees a mound of crumbs). “Um…thanks?” (friend gives cookies to dog).

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

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