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 currently works in advancement for Berkshire School and is at work on her next cookbook.
"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.