Making toffee (and chocolate-almond toffee saltines)

Have you been baking your little heart out this holiday season? I love seeing cookie and baked good recipes all over (what can I say, sweets make me happy!) and I’ve bookmarked dozens of them over the past month or so. This past Sunday was the first time this month that I’ve actually baked. A tragedy really but hey, better late than never. I learned how to make toffee too and dare I say… it was life changing!

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Now that I know how easy it is, there will be lots and lots of toffee in my future. And the future of my family and friends. Prepare yourself peeps. If you know me, there will be toffee coming your way at some point in your life. Winking smile Nothing to complain about, that’s for sure.

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So the toffee making process was born from the desire to make the chocolate almond saltine toffee recipe from Food & Wine. I’ve had saltine bark before (a.k.a crack) but this was my first time making my own. Toffee is basically butter (lots of it), sugar (yup, lots of it too), and corn syrup boiled together until it reaches 300* (a candy thermometer is very key here!!). Once these 3 simple ingredients turn into a golden brown syrupy goodness, you poor it into a container (in this case, over saltine crackers actually) and then cool it. After 15 minutes in the freezer, you have a sweet crunchy candy. Man, it’s good!

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Fun fact: Our wedding favors were sweet sloops which are little sailboat shaped toffee candies dipped in i2 kinds of chocolate and pecan crumbs. Awesomeness in a pretty package. So are these:

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Salty saltines + sweet crunchy toffee + creamy dreamy chocolate + nuts = happiness all around. Life changing.

The back side Embarrassed smile

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Dig in!!

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This little tin has someone’s name on it… Open-mouthed smile

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Have you ever made toffee? Other things that got me as giddy (“life changing” was also possibly mentioned in relevant posts): making marshmallows, making challah bread, making pretzel sandwich buns, Italian bread, and making ricotta. I think it’s something about demystifying some of my favorite foods, as well as the pride that comes from turning a handful of ingredients into a completely different form of deliciousness. Yup, that’s it.

PS – Other baked goods created during this baking extravaganza (thanks, Tiffany, for hosting!)…

Chocolate peppermint roll

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… and peanut butter blossoms

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What have you been baking lately?

Better Butter review and giveaway

I feel like I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had much time to cook so this weekend I finally made sure to schedule-in some serious kitchen time. It was so much fun! One of the items on my to-make list – muffins with a product I recently received for a review.

Better Butter was actually started by a friend of mine, Marina, whom I met through blogging last year. She was a big fan of nut butters (who isn’t, right?) but was frustrated with how caloric they were…so she started playing with natural ingredients like pumpkin and mashed banana to make a lighter peanut butter spread. And that’s how Better Butter was born!

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[Edited to add: I forgot something really important!! Better Butter is ~45% less calories than peanut butter (around 100 calories for 2 tablespoons), ~50% less fat than peanut butter and ~65% less saturated fat than peanut butter. I love these stats!!]

A few weeks ago Marina sent me a Better Butter variety pack to taste and review on the blog. I was super excited to say the least!!

The 3 flavors currently available are: honey nut banana, maple pumpkin and nutty chocolate chip

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These are definitely peanut butter spreads. This may sound funny but I don’t think peanut butter tastes a lot like peanuts – it has a very distinct flavor for me. Better Butter tasted a lot like peanuts… and the flavorings! Each variety had a very different texture as well.

The maple pumpkin was light and fluffy. I loved the spices in it – tasted like a pumpkin pie filling but much less sweet (all Better Butter spreads are sweetened with agave nectar which has a much more subtle sweetness).

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The honey nut banana was my least favorite actually. It was a lot more dense and seemed to taste differently on different days. One day it tasted like green bananas, another day it was very peanuty.

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Unsurprisingly, the nutty chocolate chip was the one I kept going back for. It was a little grainy but I just loved the deep chocolate flavor and the mini chocolate chips. Yes, everything is better with chocolate chips! Open-mouthed smile

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I actually received a whole full-sized jar of the nutty chocolate chip to play around with and challenged myself to the very first Elina original muffin recipe!! I made a cherry chocolate kind on Saturday, took notes on what worked and what didn’t, and went back to the drawing board (and my kitchen) on Sunday. Here are my Healthy and Sane chocolate apricot muffins (makes 6)

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1T canola oil
  • 2T Better Butter nutty chocolate chip

Dry ingredients:

  • 4oz whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2.5T cacao powder
  • 1t instant coffee
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1/2t salt
  • 4T sugar (these were not too sweet, use more if you prefer sweet muffins)

Mix-ins: dried apricots, chopped (I used 75grams – all I had left). I think chocolate chips would put these over the edge in amazingness Smile

The process in pictures…

Mix wet ingredients:

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Mix the dry ingredients:

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Combine the 2, add mix-ins. Bake at 350* for 16 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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These muffins came out super moist with a hint of chocolate and peanut butter flavor (I think the addition of chocolate chips would make these more chocolaty). I loved the addition of dried apricots – they are my latest obsession!

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[Each muffin is 5 Points Plus]

As mentioned above, they weren’t too sweet so I thought a shmear of Better Butter over the top was appropriate Winking smile

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Yup, very appropriate. Yum! Smile

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This was muffin #2 actually, I took a bite and then remembered dinner was coming, so I “glued” it back together. Sneaky. :lol:

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Want a chance to win a variety pack of Better Butter and taste all 3 flavors?

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Here are the rules: there are 6 ways to enter.

1) Leave a comment on this post – Tell me anything peanut butter related – maybe what your favorite brand or flavor is or how you like to enjoy it.

2+3) Follow me on Twitter (please tell me in the comments what your twitter name is so I can confirm). For an additional entry, you can also tweet about this giveaway (my twitter name @elinacooks must be included to qualify)

4) Like Healthy and Sane on Facebook.

5) Add Healthy and Sane to your blogroll.

6) Link to this post on your blog, if you have one. If you don’t, let someone else know about this giveaway and tell me so in the comments section after they’ve entered the giveaway.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry!) and will end on January 15. I will randomly choose a winner using random.org and announce him/her on the following Monday. Good luck! Open-mouthed smile

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