Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Trees and Hannukah Candles

I am a Jew by choice.  I converted a number of years ago and have never looked back.  We all have our reasons for doing what we do and I do not feel the need to explain my actions.  I did what I wanted to do for me and that's that.

However, if you've been reading my blog for awhile, then you know my maiden name is "Cromwell."  Clearly, not the stuff Jews are made of.  Which means I spent most of my life celebrating Christmas.  Indeed, when our kids were growing up, we celebrated both holidays - Christmas and Hannukah.  But, let's call it like it is (or was).  Hannukah?  Not so much.  Christmas was the holiday that ruled and of course it had to do with the excitement of leaving cookies out for Santa and the plethora of presents on Christmas morning.  I'll leave it at that.

And then they grew up.  And left our house.  By that time, I was officially Jewish anyway, so no more Christmas holidays here.

 I will confess I have silently breathed a sigh of relief that I haven't had to do the frenzied shopping thing for years now.  Folks will ask me if I have finished my Christmas shopping and I will just smile, knowing that I am immune.

Oh, but wait.  Holy crap.  I forgot about the mailman, the hairdresser, the dry cleaning guy, the yard crew, the folks at the VA where I volunteer, my mother and a host of others whom I care about and who are deserving of some kind of gift from me.  Oy veh.  I always think that I'm exempt and don't have to deal with any of it until the reality comes crashing down on me - hard - usually a week or so away from December 25th.  As you can probably guess, that's where I found myself today.

First, though, let me digress (I'm good at that, right?).  As I was walking up to the entrance of Whole Paycheck Foods the other day, I was all but accosted by a slew of little, tiny Christmas trees.  I'm talking about the size you can place on a desk or a table.  I wavered.  We haven't had a Christmas tree in years.  I caved.  It's kind of like eating a broken cookie - it doesn't count.  Same with a miniscule tree, yes?

So I bought it.  And then had to head to Target for little, tiny ornaments (the heirloom ones ensconced in my attic are way too big).  But WTF????  They were totally sold out of little white lights.  WTF????

Turns out that's not uncommon.  My friend Olive explained to me today that she buys her lights 6 months in advance because they always are sold out.  Who knew?

In any event, I managed to find some (crappy) ones at the local Kroger.  I got the tree decorated.  And then I came home today and made some really good English Toffee with Fleur de Sel to package up as gifts for everyone.  Here's the recipe.  And it doesn't discriminate between Christmas or Hannukah, either.

English Toffee with Fleur de Sel
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Fleur de Sel

Heat butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook and stir until mixture reaches 310-degrees (hard-crack stage).  Divide between 2 sheet pans which have been greased (or preferably lined with Sil-Pats).  Use a small offset spatula to spread caramel evenly.

As soon as caramel is cool to the touch (this will only take a couple of minutes), flip it over to prevent sticking. If you wait too long, it will harden and you won't be able to flip it without cracking.  It needs to be cool, but still pliable.

In the meantime, melt the chocolate. 

After caramel is cool, blot off excess butter with paper towels.  Pour half of chocolate over each pan and spread out with a spatula.  Sprinkle Fleur de Sel evenly over.

Place pans in refrigerator to cool and harden, about 30 minutes.  Break into shards and uneven pieces.  Try to refrain from eating most of it as you do this.

Yield:  a whole bunch.  Enough for lots of gifts if you don't decide to keep it all for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. OMG, Liz, you are making me hungry. I just read you three recent posts and enjoyed all of them. I need to start cooking... maybe the flatbread this weekend. Thanks for sharing your recipes.