Day 161 – National English Toffee Day

Before I got to celebrating toffee today, I took a short detour for another type of holiday.  It turns out that today was the birthday of Elvis Presley.  He would have been 82 years old – just a few years younger than my Mom which is a factoid that kind of blows my mind.  My mom is from a different era, at least in my mind.  She grew up on the music of Glen Miller, Bing Crosby and the crooners.  She wasn’t part of the whole Rock and Roll thing.  It’s weird to find out that the King of Rock and Roll is a few years younger than your mom.  You kind of marvel at the difference between the paths they took through life.  Sure, my mom watched the birth of rock and roll and she was never oblivious to it, she just didn’t take to it. I guess you could say the same about Elvis, that he never took to nursing the way my mom did.  Just an observation.

I wanted to celebrate Elvis today so naturally there was only one way to do so properly; I took an insane amount of qualudes and then went to the bathroom.  Just kidding.  No, since this blog is very often about food, I felt it would be appropriate to honor the King by creating his well-documented favorite sandwich – the Fried Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich with Bacon.  Oh boy.  I was pretty sure I knew how to make this but I looked up the recipe online just in case.  I found it on a website called Serious Eats.  I started by taking out my griddle pan and melting some butter as it heated up.  I took two pieces of good white bread and spread peanut butter on one side of each piece then placed it onto the butter on the griddle (peanut butter side up naturally).  While the bread was cooking I topped one side with a sliced up banana and then topped that with a few strips of bacon.  For the final touch, I drizzled some honey over the bacon.  I then put the two pieces of bread together and cooked the outside until golden brown, just like you would a grilled cheese sandwich.  Pretty easy way to get it done, although I will warn you that the peanut butter starts oozing out as it warms up.

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I cut it in half and served some to Lola.  This was our in-game snack during the Dolphins/Steelers game.  Naturally, Lola’s curiosity was piqued at the thought of a Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich, especially when it was oozing peanut butter out the sides.  She was a little concerned about the bacon, not seeing how that was needed in this creation, but she was game.  It’s a messy sandwich, about five napkins required. When the bread is nice and toasted, it will hold it all together pretty nicely, but you just can’t stop the peanut butter from oozing. I’ve long been a fan of putting some peanut butter on warm toast and this wasn’t too far off from that, if not better.  Lola usually keeps her PB on untoasted bread, so the warm peanut butter was a novel idea to her, but a good one.  The banana was a very subtle flavor.  It definitely gave the sandwich a chewy, soft texture, but you were never overpowered by the taste of bananas.  I admit the banana I used still had one more day to achieve perfect ripeness, so maybe that had something to do with it. Or maybe I cut the slices too thin.  Regardless, I kind of liked that the banana was a subtle flavor that didn’t distract. The bacon was just a plus.  First it gave the sandwich a bit of crunchiness which it needed, but I was also surprised how well the taste of bacon goes with peanut butter. It’s sweet and salty. A great little addition to the party.  This was a pretty good sandwich and I could see why Elvis was a fan.  A wise man once told me not to rush in when it comes to these kind of things, but somehow I just couldn’t help falling in love with the Peanut Butter, Banana and Bacon sandwich.

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Today was also National English Toffee Day and I was geared up to broaden my candy-making skills and make a homemade batch.  I looked at recipes online and they all seemed easy in theory, but heating up sugar to 300 degrees is always a little tricky.  Have you ever been burned by hot sugar?  Ouchy.  The recipe needed a pound of butter, pecans and chocolate, none of which I had, so I added them to my shopping list for later.

The authorities at Wikipedia say: “Toffee is a confection made by caramelizing sugar along with butter, and occasionally flour. The mixture is heated until its temperature reaches the hard crack stage (300 to 310 °F).  A popular variant in the U.S. is English toffee, which is a very buttery toffee often made with almonds. Heath bars are a type of confection made with an English toffee core. Although named English toffee it bears little resemblance to the wide range of confectionery known as toffee currently available in the United Kingdom. However, one can still find this product in the UK under the name buttercrunch.”  I like toffee, although I am never going crazy for it.  It seems a little rough on the teeth; you can almost feel the sugar on your enamel.  When we buy candy from the candy counter at places like Candy Manor in Chatham, we’ll always get a few pieces of toffee to put in the mix.  That’s always good and fresh.  Ben and Jerry’s makes a great flavor called Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch which mixes toffee with ice cream. We pick that up on occasion too.  But that’s the usual extent of our toffee eating.  Today would be a good chance to really celebrate this great treat.

You remember how I said I spent most of the morning shoveling?  Well at about 2:30, when it was time to go to the store, I started feeling it.  My muscles were sore and I was just walking around in a tired haze.  That’s never a good way to go shopping, but I still went because I had to get there at some point.  It was probably a mistake because I just wasn’t feeling it.  I looked at the pecans.  I looked at the butter and the chocolate.  I thought about how long this would take to make.  The pots and pans I would have to clean.  The energy it would take.  My enthusiasm for making toffee was waning fast.  Meanwhile, I was staring at a package of toffee in the candy aisle. Then I looked at all the toffee ingredients in my cart, then back at the package of toffee. I decided that the package of toffee was enough for today.  Sometimes, the easy way out is the way to go.  I grabbed the toffee and put back the ingredients.  It was kind of a weight off my shoulders.

The toffee was from a place called Anchor Toffee and the package boasted that they are proudly made in Rhode Island.  It had a nice simple package of their anchor logo in a pleasing blue and red color on a white label.  The toffee, which you could see through the packaging, looked good too.  Thick cut, fresh looking, lots of nuts and chocolate.  I could not find much info about them other than their website (www.anchortoffee.com), but I did notice that they are another local business being helped by the folks at Hope & Main who are “Rhode Island’s first culinary business incubator. They help local entrepreneurs jump-start early-stage food companies and food related businesses by providing low cost, low risk access to shared-use commercial kitchens and other industry-specific technical resources.”  I’ve been paying attention to them lately.  They really are helping some great tastes find their way into local markets, so I like supporting the businesses they are part of.  It’s local economy at its finest.

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The toffee was really good too.  You could taste the freshness.  The pieces of toffee were of good thickness and they were topped with a thin layer of chocolate that balanced it all out.  The nuts pulled it together.  Like all toffee, you can’t eat too much at once.  The candy is too sweet and the dust of the nuts are also a lot – it makes me choke.  But as a special sweet break from life, you’ll find none better.  I recommend it, and I also recommend Anchor Toffee.  Nothing like fresh Rhode Island candy to make your day.

I apologize for taking it easy today. In my defense, we ended up getting over ten inches of snow here in Portsmouth so clearing that out was really tiring.  I really would like to make toffee some day and now that I know the technique, I will try to do so in the future.  Just not today.  No, today was for relaxing.  I did make a sandwich that I always wanted to make so I can put that in the accomplished column.  Elvis would have said I was still taking care of business, so I’m ok with that.  Plus I did savor some fresh local toffee.  That’s celebrating, right?  I think so, and my tired bones couldn’t be happier.

Next Up: National Apricot Day 

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