Friday, 24 February 2012

Kitchen Bravery

I think there are a few things we are born with the instinct to avoid. The obvious thoughts, like face-plants or choking first come to mind...but I also think we have kitchen instincts. Mine are strong. Avoid caramel...and avoid anything which requires refrigeration to work (as in, chocolate truffles.)

I don't know what it is about those two instincts - some sort of safety mechanism I suppose, to prevent hot sugar burns and other mishaps. The problem is, of course, that I love caramel and truffles and there they dangle, just out of arm's reach.

Unless, I decide to take brave action against my instincts - and do my best to conquer them. Which I decided to do. And which I did. (Almost.)

And let me give you the recipes to do it too!

Caramel Popcorn

3 3/4 qts. popped popcorn
1 cup       brown sugar
1/2 cup    margarine
1/4 cup    light corn syrup
1/2 tsp     salt
1/2 tsp     baking soda
1/2 tsp     vanilla

Pour air popped popcorn into a large roaster

Mix sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt in a pot and cook gently over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it begins to boil, cook for 5 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will foam and splutter a bit (dangerous!) so stand back a bit while you stir. Pour over the popcorn and stir and stir to coat it. This is very therapeutic. Bake for 1 hour @ 200 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and crumble into pieces.

Black Chocolate Truffles

1 cup    heavy cream
9 ozs.    bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp    butter, cut up
1 cup     icing sugar

1 cup of cocoa powder

In a saucepan set over medium heat, scald the cream (basically just get it hot-hot without boiling). Add the chocolate, turn down the heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in butter and icing sugar, a little at a time, until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered for 1 hour or until firm. I would listen to the 'until firm' part, because I've yet to see 1 hour do the trick.
Measure the cocoa into a small bowl. Form the chocolate into 1 inch balls and roll them in the powder, placing them on a plate in one layer. This is messy!! But fun. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. They'll keep in the fridge for a week and the freezer for 2 months.

Yields about 2 dozen.

At this point, I feel it is only fair to tell the whole truth. Those of you who are particularly fond of 'real life' will be gleeful to know that halfway through the typing of this post, I hear the yell, "It's burning!" and jog up to the kitchen to see a layer of black on top of my popcorn. It had been so nicely baking just minutes before, I had been so confident. But that was when I thought it was supposed to be cooking at 400 degrees. Hmm.

However - the burnt layer was easily scraped off. And it really wasn't the caramel making step that went wacky. And hey, maybe Burnt Popcorn and Scraped Knees has a better ring to it.

So I'm still counting this as success. OK?


P.S. What are your cooking fears? If enough people share, I just might post a picture of my own little burnt popcorn disaster. Maybe.


  1. After 10 years of marriage, I finally deep fried something. Memories of my mom catching our kitchen on fire when I was a kid kept flitting through my mind. I spent the entire ordeal yelling at the kids to get out of the kitchen, the fire extinguisher was out, my forehead was sweaty and I nearly had a panic attack. The stress almost killed me.

    And, I hate scalding milk. It goes from fine to big stinky frothy mess in zero time.

  2. I used to shy away from things requiring the blender or a thermometer, but I've conquered those fears... it was more laziness than actual fear, anyway. I'm a little scared of roasting a whole chicken or turkey, canning anything, and making granola (I burnt it the only time I tried, and no I did not take a picture).

    Also, I've not conquered meringue yet, I hate the idea of a main course salad, and I once burnt salted caramel badly... put-the-whole-pot-outside-in-the-snow-because-it-is-smelling-and-smoking-too-much-to-stay-in-the-house, badly. I didn't take a picture of that either.

    Scary things I intend to try soon: a triple layer cake, marshmallows, and croissants!

  3. The popcorn Friday was good. I have never made truffles either. You make them look easy. :) Now maybe I'll have to make them. Maybe Christmas.
    I have never made a real fudge recipe. I've only made the Carnation Milk recipe that uses marshmallows.

    @Emily For marshmallows google Smitten Kitchen Marshmallows. They are the best.

  4. Once the lid flew off the blender, splattering red pepper soup all over me and the kitchen. An important lesson is not to put hot liquid in the blender! I fear that I am more foolhardy than cautious in the kitchen... I have a scar from melted sugar that spattered.

    One thing I have no intention of making is an aspic, but only because they look disgusting. :)

  5. My cooking fears would be to cook steak for people. I simply can not cook steak properly. It's always way over done because I'm scared of food born toxins.
    Lucky for me Jeremy likes well done steak.

    I made fettuccine noodles last week and they were a pathetic, stuck together, squishy lump. No pictures.