We're 21 days to Christmas and counting. I'd say that calls for chocolate.
Lots and lots of chocolate. Or homemade sweets, in general.
A platter of chocolate truffles are handy, little noshes to have on hand for holiday guests. And my hazelnut toffee and hazelnut brittle make marvelous gifts — particularly when packed into colorful boxes or tins that recipients can use throughout the year.
Good friend Sheri Albin always makes peanut brittle in mid-December, so she and husband Rod can hop in the car the week before Christmas and make sweet deliveries to lucky friends and family. One year, I supplied her with some new-crop hazelnuts to see if her wonderful brittle recipe could make the leap from peanuts to hazelnuts. The results were heavenly!
Like most forms of candy-making, toffee and brittle construction certainly can lead you astray if you don't pay attention. But these are fabulous recipes that produce outstanding gems, with very little risk of failure. Honest. Just make sure to use a reliable candy thermometer.
These recipes were developed for my hazelnut cookbook, and among my legion of taste-testers during its creation, the hazelnut toffee produced the most requests for more while the hazelnut brittle was a close second. I'm not sure how that will translate into folks getting up the gumption to make their own.
But I worked through these formulas carefully in order to simplify the steps and fail-safe them to the extent possible.
Culinarily speaking, making candy seems to be an effective form of attitude control. If you've lost touch with the beauty and wonder this special season is supposed to represent, then get thee into a kitchen and whip up a batch of something sweet. The experience is guaranteed to retrieve your departed Christmas spirit and make the world seem right again.
Have a joyous holiday and bon appetit!
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at email@example.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.