I’m a bit of a chocolate freak. Like Christine, I squirrel away stashes of dark chocolate in my kitchen. I often keep carres (those little squares) of La Maison du Chocolate Dark in my purse, and on an especially bad day, I’ve been known to purchase a pound of Michel Recchuiti’s Fleur de Sel Caramel chocolates and consume half of it in one sitting. I’ve done the Scharffenberger tour, and every few weeks or so, I’ll treat myself to a bar of Amadei Porcelano. But I still looooove See’s Candies. I love the pristine white shops, the ladies in uniform and hairnets, the way it smells like a freshly opened box, the popping the bubble wrap that lays underneath the box lid and the familiar flavors they offer. I especially love the free samples you get even if you only buy a 20 cent (or however much they cost nowadays) sugar stick. I don’t like the marzipan filled chocolates, or the rum raisin one. Yech.
My favorite of their chocolates is the Scotchmallow, which I would pick out immediately whenver my mom opened up a box of Nuts and Chews (my family always got Nuts and Chews). If you are unlucky enough not to have have had the opportunity to experience the Scotchmallow, it’s a layer of caramel on top of honey marshmallow covered in dark chocolate. The fluffy sweet marshmallow and the buttery caramel are balance out really well with the bittersweet chocolate.
But recently, I’ve become enamored of the Scotch kisses, which actually take the chocolate out of the equation. They’re just the caramel and marshmallow wrapped up in wax paper. Don’t worry about the chocolate subtraction – I’m usually having a bar of Porcelano on the side. When I received my copy of Nancy Silverton’s La Brea Pastries several weeks ago, I spotted a recipe for scotch kisses and decided that it was time to overcome my fear of molten sugar.
Making the marshmallow wasn’t that difficult. It’s not unlike making buttercream. You cook the sugar with light corn syrup until it reaches hard ball stage (240 degrees F), add “bloomed” gelatin and vanilla, then carefully pour the syrup into a stand mixer set to medium with stiffly beaten (but still glossy) egg whites. I overbeat the egg whites a smidgen. They were a little bit on the dry side, so when I poured the candy out to set (on parchment sprinkled with powdered sugar, they deflated a little.
Next up was the caramel. It was a bit trickier. I’m never entirely sure when to turn the heat off cooking caramel, because it continues to cook and darken after you’ve taken it off the stove. This recipe called for bringing the corn syrup and a bit of sugar to a boil, and incorporating more sugar a few tablespoons at a time, then allowing it to darken before pouring in hot cream and melted butter. The first time around, I cooked it too long and too high, so my candy was more like toffee, hard and crunchy, not soft and chewy. I tried it again, and it was still too hard, but slightly malleable. I went ahead and sandwiched the marshmallow between two layers of caramel, then cut them into bite sized pieces with kitchen shears. The caramel was just very dense and chewy, like a jujube or now and later. But because of the sugar’s hydroscopic tendencies, they softened up a little after I let them age for a few days. I’ll try it again, though I may just go for a egg white free marshmallow recipe, and definitely cook the caramel for a shorter period of time.