More candy making! I had no specific reason to make candy but I was in a baking mood (probably because I'm stressed--I like to bake when I'm stressed!). I decided to make Mexican Orange Drops (p. 874).
The first step is to melt one cup of sugar. I have to admit--I didn't know that sugar would melt with no liquid at all.
This is what I started with. You can see the sugar starting to liquidate at the edges.
Eventually, the sugar looked like this:
And it ended looking like this:
I figured that was what the recipe meant when it said "rich brown"--I was pretty excited because this was a new experience for me--and a new skill!
The recipe than says to add in some boiling water or orange juice--because the recipe's name has "orange" in it, I decided to use orange juice. The sugar DID NOT like the orange juice being added and it spit it all over. It was pretty scary! I was glad I was wearing an apron (yes, I know, but it protects my clothes).
Hot evaporated milk, sugar, and salt are then added. This was scary! As the milk was added, the boiling mixture kept threatening to boil over--and I was not looking forward to the kitchen being covered in scalding hot sugar. The pot is then covered an cooked for a few minutes.
It then had to be cooked until it was 234 degrees. I was expecting to have a lot of time since the marshmallow mixture took FOREVER to get to temperature...but this was totally different! It hit 234 almost immediately. If you make this recipe, watch the temperature closely.
The zest from two oranges is then added. I really really recommend a microplane grater! I really despise zesting with a grater--but the microplane not only zests to the correct degree quickly (only zest, no white pith) but also collects the zest. It's fast and easy and I think every one who bakes should have one in their collection.
A cup of nuts are mixed in and the mixture is beat until creamy. Now, I don't know how they are supposed to get "creamy" but it started to make snapping noises and was almost impossible so I decided to quit stirring--it was almost breaking the wooden spoon.
The candy was then dropped on the foil. It was NOT easy to drop either--it was very sticky.
I was terrified that the candy wasn't going to come off of the foil. My solution was to let it dry for a day--and then they did come off. I wrapped them in saran wrap. They were very strange. The MODs were EXTREMELY citrusy--if you like orange flavor, these are for you. I'm not as into extreme citrus so I wasn't sure about them...the consistency was that of pralines. I LOVE pralines, so that worked really well for me. I'm not sure what MODs are supposed to look and taste like but these were great.
I needed something fast to make because it was a Wednesday night. Why does it being a Wednesday matter? Because on W, Josh likes to watch Bones and I like to watch American's Next Top Model, and I tend to watch it in my office, which is nowhere near the kitchen. I decided to make Chili Con Carne (p.513).
The first step is to combine onions, garlic (a lot of garlic!), a jalapeno, and some salt in a pan, until the vegetables are softened. Easy, right?
This was where I ran into chili-problem-number-one. I made a big error in judgment. I seeded the jalopeno and didn't immediately wash my hands. Why does this matter? Because I managed to touch the bottom of my nose and my lips with the jalapeño hand. And it felt like I lit them on fire. ALWAYS wash your hands after doing anything with peppers. I washed my face with soap and water, which helped, but it burned for about an hour.
Meat is then added. The recipe calls for three pounds of boneless beef chuck cut into cubes. I used stew meat that I bought at the grocery store.
I hate browning meat because it seems to toughen it. I think I overbrowned it because I was in the middle of making the candy and ignored it. A half cup of chili powder was then added (you can make your own but I just used purchased chili powder).
At this point I got totally overwhelmed. This was what my stove looked like:
Four burners--all full. Because I was so busy I didn't manage to get an "after" picture of the chili. But tomatoes, vinegar, and water are added to the mix, and it's cooked for a couple hours.
How was it? I thought the flavor was delicious but I hated the big chunks of meat. I think that's just a personal preference though--if I made it again I would use either finely diced or ground beef. I think chili is one of those things that everyone has very specific views on what is best--lots of beans or no beans, ground meat or cubed meat, spicy or not spicy. I have to make it again at some point because the following recipe is exactly the same as chili con carne, expect with beans, so I might make it with chili ground beef (ground with a larger diameter than normal ground beef).