Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July: Candy Making

A few of my older posts showed some pictures of my candy making adventures in China. Since then, I have slaved and tried to perfect some recipes I have collected over the years. Each Christmas, I have been trying new recipes, some failures, but many successes. My two favorites: buckeyes and mint melt-aways. For three years now, I have had success with buckeyes changing and experimenting new ways of making them; the tried and true always win.

When I was a child, my grandmother used to make mint melt-aways and since she has passed, I decided to try to make them myself after finding confidence in making buckeyes. At Christmas 2009, I made my first batch. I used the wrong mint extract and the wrong candy coating. It is best to stick with plain chocolate for dipping and pure peppermint for flavoring. This Summer, I decided I wanted to try making 4th of July Candy. I wanted to dip in white chocolate and use food coloring the make red and blue. Well, seeming that I am inexperienced with while chocolate, I got it too hot, surprise, surprise, and the red food coloring came out speckled. Any old hands out there have some advice? I learned that white chocolate needs to have not vegetable fat in it and needs to be heated only until melted... but how does one make it thin enough to dip and drizzle? That is my next feat in candy making. After my chocolate got clumpy, I just spread it over the chocolate fillings of mint chocolate and peanut butter chocolate... tasty but a little rough around the edges. Better luck next time!

Asian Cooking: Can I even call it cooking? More like destroying.

For those of you who have followed my blog in the past, I have been back from my overseas adventure for 2 years, and those of you who have not, I was in China, Thailand, and Laos. Since I've been back, I have had a taste for authentic Asian food. I have tried many times to replicate the food experiences I had overseas. Some have succeeded and many have failed. Let's begin with the first failure: Di San Chen. (spelling I think is right). Roughly translated, three vegetable dish. It had egg plant, bell peppers and potatoes. I tried to make this on the more spicy side by using some local hot peppers I found at our Farmer's Market. I also found some Asian eggplant. I had the eggplant dried to what I believed was right and I had begun cooking some chicken, garlic and other spices together in a pan. I then added the hot peppers. Big mistake. Walking down the stairway toward a restaurant near my University in China, I was greeted with the pungent aroma of stinky tofu and something extremely spicy that took my breath away. My coworkers and I called it "Cancer Valley" because as we walked through this non ventilated death trap we felt suffocated with the pungency of the spice and rotten tofu. I never understood what made that spicy aroma that takes your breath away until I added the hot pepper to my scorching pan of chicken and spices. In a moments time, I was gasping for clean air and opening every window in the house. Now I got it. After this unfortunate step, I added the eggplant. Next time I will have to let them dry longer or something; I'm not very skilled or experienced in dealing with eggplant. After adding the eggplant and letting it cook for a little while, everything just got so soggy. I forget what else I added, but let's just say that this dish was finished... not to eat but to be thrown out.

After this mistake, I tried a few more times with eggplant, and I have surrendered to this mysteriously resistant vegetable.