Susan Heeger is a California native, graduate of Harvard University, and long-time magazine and newspaper feature writer with a specialty in garden, design, home, lifestyle, and food stories. A contributing editor for Garden Design and former staff writer for Martha Stewart Living, she also co-wrote (with Jimmy Williams) From Seed to Skillet, a guide to edible gardening and cooking from the garden, published by Chronicle Books. She has written extensively on vegetable gardening for publications ranging from The Los AngelesTimes Magazineto This Old House, and covered entertaining, food, landscape, and interior design for otherssuch as Martha Stewart Living, Coastal Living, Country Living, and Cooking Light.Her new design book, Landprints: The Landscape Designs of Bernard Trainor, will appear in April, 2013, from Princeton Architectural Press.
Susie Norris writes about food and culture. She taught baking at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and ran an award-winning artisan chocolate business in Los Angeles for 10 years. Her two books are CHOCOLATE BLISS (Random House/Celestial Arts, 2009) and HAND-CRAFTED CANDY BARS (Chronicle Books, 2013.) Prior to her work in the food business, Susie was an executive at NBC, CBS and Disney/ABC and other networks where she supervised television writing and production. She has a B.A. degree in English Literature from Boston College and certificates in professional baking and chocolate work. She is affiliated with the University of Southern California and is currently at work on third cookbook, a dessert tour of Europe.
"What's great about this book is its approachability. Hand-Crafted Candy Bars is not another tome on the Art of the Chocolatier or the Art of the Confectioner. Because much as we love Ewald Notter's pastillage technique, most weekends, we'd rather just make chocolate taffy (p. 61), peanut butter-chocolate cups (p. 46) or dark-chocolate dipped almond coconut bars (p. 37), which sound infinitely better than a certain commercial candy with the same ingredients. Another bonus: here, the number of recipes is hardly overwhelming, so making "nut n' nougat" bars on a Saturday afternoon (better yet, on a "sick day") seems completely doable.
The chapter we keep flipping back to is "Candy Bar Basics" with gives you just that -- all the basics you need to make you own bars. These are the building blocks of the recipes in other sections of the book: soft nougat, marzipan, fondant, four versions of caramel (and really, when is one ever enough?), basic toffee, fudge, vanilla cookie dough that works as a good candy bar base, chocolate coatings of various kinds. Many of the candies, say Norris and Heeger, freeze well. Good news if you're having a dessert party, bad news if your afternoon willpower is no stronger than ours.
The authors' personal favorite candy in the book? We're pretty impressed they were able to come to an agreement. The candy is one they have dubbed "molten chocolate peanut bars," little milk chocolate-covered logs filled with pillowy vanilla bean nougat and a layer of crunchy peanut butter-caramel. "It has everything we love in a candy bar - chewiness, nuttiness, sweet-saltiness, and that irresistible chocolate-caramel combo," they say in the recipe Introduction. Next weekend.
In the meantime, we'll be whipping up a little chocolate nougat -- in less than half an hour. Let the candy bar experiments begin."
Soft Chocolate Nougat From: Hand-Crafted Candy Bars Makes about 4 cups (795 G) Time needed: 20 min
3 cups/355 g ice 3 egg whites 3⁄4 cup/150 g sugar 1⁄2 cup/120 ml corn syrup 1⁄4 cup/60 ml water 1⁄2 cup/80 g melted high-quality dark chocolate 1 tbsp butter 1 tsp vanilla extract 1⁄2 tsp salt
1. Put the ice in a medium bowl and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and set aside.
3. Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue to boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 225°F/110°C on a candy thermometer.
4. Begin whipping the egg whites on low speed. Continue cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches 245°F/118°C. (If your temperature goes higher, shock the syrup by setting the pan in the bowl of ice.) Pour a splash of the syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the space between the rim of the bowl and the whisk attachment. Continue whisking as you slowly add the rest of the hot sugar syrup. Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until the nougat reaches a full, frothy foam, about 2 minutes.
5. Allow the nougat to cool for about 20 minutes. (It should be close to room temperature and the bottom of the mixing bowl should no longer feel hot.) Turn the mixer on again and add the melted chocolate, butter, vanilla, and salt. Continue mixing until smooth. Use a big nonstick spatula or wooden spoon to scoop the nougat onto the prepared baking sheet. Allow the nougat to come to room temperature before using in candy-bar production.
The closer you get to vanilla, the more you understand the potency of the tiny seeds packed into their slender pods. Vanilla extract, the fragrant infusion of vanilla seeds in alcohol, is easy to make using beans you buy online or in specialty cooking stores. To add extra flavor notes, you can experiment with various liqueurs, swapping in Grand Marnier or brandy for the rum and vodka. Since alcohol is a preservative, the resulting extract will keep indefinitely. This also gives you a great way to recycle vanilla pods after you have used their seeds to flavor candy bars.
4 vanilla beans 1 cup/240 ml dark rum 1⁄2 cup/120 ml vodka
Lay the vanilla beans on a cutting board, slit them open lengthwise, scrape out the seeds using the back of a paring knife, and reserve the pods. In a pint-size (480 ml) lidded glass jar, combine the rum and vodka, mix in the vanilla seeds, add the pods, and cover. Shake well, and then again every few days. After a week, the extract is ready to use, but its flavor deepens the longer it sits. It keeps indefinitely, especially if you refresh it with alcohol when it runs low and regularly add in gently used pods when you have them.
Dark Chocolate Dipped Almond Coconut Bar
Our almond coconut bar makes the most of a sweet, nut- topped, coconut-cream center by covering it in very dark premium chocolate—a tempting contrast of sugary and sharp.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2 Placethealmondsononebakingsheetandbakeforabout10to15minutes, until they are aromatic and very lightly brown.
3 Inamediumbowl,combinethesiftedpowderedsugarandcreamwitharub- ber spatula or wooden spoon until you have a paste. Stir in the coconut and salt. Shape into 2-in/5-cm firmly packed logs, each with a slightly flattened top, and put the logs on the second baking sheet. Put 2 almonds on top of each log and push them gently but firmly into the coconut. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
4 Removethelogsfromtherefrigerator.Dipeachintothebowloftempered chocolate, and use two dinner forks or chocolate dipping forks to fish it out. Shake the logs carefully with the forks until excess chocolate drips oð, then slide them onto the baking sheet originally used to toast the nuts, after brushing it oð or re-lining with parchment paper. Using a sifter or tea strainer, dust each bar with a little cocoa powder while the chocolate is still moist. Let the chocolate set at room temperature (a small rotary fan will speed the job) or refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Once the chocolate sets, serve the bars at room temperature. (See photo, page XX).
Store in an airtight, snap-top food storage box, zip-top plastic bag, or plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.
1 cup/115 g whole almonds
3⁄4 cup/70 g powdered sugar, sifted 2 tbsp heavy cream
2 cups/190 g sweetened, shredded coconut
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 batch Tempered Dark Chocolate (see below)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (for decoration)
TEMPERED DARK CHOCOLATE
Chop 3 cups/465 g of quality dark chocolate into very small pieces, reserv- ing a handful to use later.
Meltthechocolategentlyinastainless-steelbowlsetoversimmeringwater until it reaches 115°F/45°C, as indicated on your candy or digital thermom- eter. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Sprinkle thereserved handful of chocolate into theme melted chocolate and stir. Cool the chocolate by placing the bowl over a bowl of ice water for a few seconds at a time, removing it, stirring until smooth, and repeating until the temperature drops to 82°F/31°C.
Heat the chocolate again by placing the chocolate bowl back over the warm water for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time. Once its temperature rises to 90°F/34°C, the chocolate is ready to use.