Sweets & treats

Making toffee/hazelnut praline! [no water method]

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Hi friends! The last time I attempted to make praline, I really bungled it. I hovered and hovered over the saucepan for what felt like hours before I zipped away to do some reading for like, 3 seconds. Before I knew it, my praline was more black than golden orange and there was a burning smell filling the air.

BUT THIS TIME!

I am happy to tell you that I have been wandering around the house with a caramelised spoon in my mouth for the good part of a dreary grey afternoon and there’s no burnt smell within nose smelling distance!

Even though I’ve titled this post as ‘toffee’ I’m sure that toffee means different things depending on where you’re from. To some, toffee might be soft and chewy, almost like butterscotch or a caramel in texture and colour. The toffee I had in my childhood ranged in colour from golden to dark yellow, was brittle and hard (and sometimes decorated with sprinkles and eaten out of a patty pan), and this is the definition I go upon when I talk about toffee. These toffees, you could probably substitute for a rock, and if biting down on one of these didn’t make you lose a tooth, then eating too many of these would.

I don’t have any pictures to accompany what I write next, mainly because I know that some disaster would probably have happened to either the camera or my syrup if I divided my attention for too long (one experience of a sugar burn is enough!), but hopefully what I write next will help those who are attempting to make praline or toffee for the first time!

If possible, I suggest that people use a saucepan with a silver base so then you can see the colour changes easily. (I will need to invest in one too me thinks, since all the saucepans I have at home at dark coloured.

The method I was taught in home ec. at school was the water and sugar method. That method requires you to hover over the saucepan, periodically brushing down the sides of the pan as the water dissolved to prevent sugar crystals from forming. It seems however, without the watchful eye of a teacher constantly reminding me to be patient, this method isn’t so great for me. The method I used here is substantially quicker, but requires that you’ve got everything ready (nuts, parchment paper/silpat), including every second of time the saucepan is on the heat.

If you’re unsure about the process, always remember that the lower your heat, the more time you’ve got to work with. Being the worry wart that I am, I set my heat on the lower side of ‘simmer’. I used 3/4 cups of sugar, but I melted the sugar in 3 portions (so three 1/4 cups).

At first, it will seem that not much is happening to the sugar, but I suggest you start stirring the sugar as soon as the saucepan looks as if it is starting to warm. For me, the sugars started to clump before quite rapidly dissolving into a liquid. Upon scooping up a bit of syrup in a silver spoon and seeing the sugar having turned into a honey colour, I immediately added in another 1/4 of sugar into the mixture and started stirring again. This next batch of sugar didn’t take long to dissolve either. I added in the last 1/4 cup of sugar when the hot syrup was still quite thick but not showing anymore signs of white from the sugar.

My black coloured saucepan made it difficult for me to see what colour my syrup was at all times, but I took the syrup off the heat when my spoon was cutting through a syrup with the consistency of warmed honey. If ever in doubt, always err on the lighter side of ‘amber’; don’t think ‘just a little longer…’ because that could mean you burning your syrup, thus rendering it unusable.

Another thing I would like anyone to learn from my experience is: the moment you think your sugar syrup is ready, then you immediately get your hazelnuts in there and stir/coat them real quick before the syrups starts to harden. I gave mine a bit too much time to ‘cool down’ (even though the syrup was still scalding hot) so by the time I poured everything onto my silpat, I was having difficulty spreading the mixture into something more thin. Getting the mixture to spread will make your life a lot easier when you have to cut up the praline into bits.

I took the skins off the hazelnuts by putting them in an oven for 10 minutes at 150ºC (302 ºF) and then just rubbed the nuts between my hands until the skins crinkled off. You don’t have to have skinless nuts if you don’t want, though!

Make sure to give the praline time to cool. Once cooled, you should be able to lift your praline away from a non stick surface with ease.

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I made this praline with the intention to turn it into a fine powder, but because of how thick my chunks were, it made the most awful and terrifying sound in the blender, so much that both my parents came skidding into the kitchen asking what the Dickens I was doing.

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In the end I had to blend the praline in batches because the chunks were making it really hard for my blender to properly blend, but it turned out alright in the end!

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Hard Toffee [no water method]

While there is no real list of ingredients needed to make toffee using this method, I’ve listed down what I used so then I’ve got something to illustrate my point. Toffee is turned into praline the moment you decide to add in nuts to the syrup.

Ingredients used:

  • 100 grams hazelnuts (if making praline)
  • 3/4 cup granulated/caster sugar

Method:

  • (If making praline) Hazelnut skins can be removed by placing the nuts in the oven for 10 minutes at 150ºC (302 ºF). Either rub skins away between two hands or use a towel.
  • (if making praline) Have baking/parchment paper or a silpat ready for when you pour out your praline.
  • Place a small saucepan (preferably one where you can see colour change easily) over low to medium heat and add in 1/4 cup of the sugar. Throughout the whole syrup making process, be prepared to be stirring constantly.
  • When the sugars begin to clump, continue to keep stirring. You should see the sugars quickly melting into liquid.
  • Add in another 1/4 cup of sugar when the sugars turn a golden yellow. Keep stirring the mixture until all newly added sugar has dissolve and the syrup has become a uniform colour. Add in the remaining 1/4 sugar and repeat process.
  • When all sugars have dissolved, remove syrup from heat and quickly add and cover nuts in syrup. Pour onto parchment paper/silpat, quickly smoothing out the nuts. Allow the praline to cool before breaking/cutting into chunks.

If there is anything you’re unsure of, or you want clarification, please leave a comment or send me an email : )

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