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Macadamia Magic

A few weeks ago, my boss handed me a kilo of macadamia nuts in a bag and said, “make magic.” I was excited, but also felt a little pressured by his tall order of “magic.” What would I make? Initially, he mentioned wanting a nut brittle of sorts, but specifically asked to keep the nuts whole and beautiful. Okay, I added the beautiful part because macadamias are my favorite nuts. ? Cookies were the first things I imagined as I cradled the heavy bag in my arms like a baby, because cookies are my favorite baked treats. I couldn’t wait to get back into the kitchen; mind you, I hadn’t touched an oven in years, and there I was contemplating on making a favorite out of a favorite, but what was the worst thing that could happen?

At first, I wanted to stick to recipes I’d tried before, but later opted to search for new ones. For these purposes, the Web is a wonderful and kind place, full of enthusiastic cooks and bakers who take pride in their own techniques and spins to oldies-but-goodies and just want to share their love for food. First on the list: the nut brittle. I’d never made this, so apart from getting the ingredients, I had to study the procedure well before starting. One thing I knew is that working with candy is a delicate matter.

Found instructions for a Salted Hazelnut Toffee by Food Network‘s Valerie Bertinelli, and jumped right into it after reading through it a few times. Big mistake. I should’ve researched a little more about how other people do their toffees and brittles, possibly watched a tutorial on Youtube; somehow, despite having a candy thermometer, my toffee had a burnt, bitter taste that I didn’t like. I told my friend, an actual baker, and she sent me this link that troubleshoots candy-making. It helped me see where I possibly went wrong (and I mean I checked almost every reason given on the article) like doing this in humidity, the amount of salt and water, and more importantly that it told me to keep whisking occasionally. Nope, nope, nope. I was prepared to throw it out, considering it inedible, but I hate waste. So I shrugged and thought I’d still give it to my boss with a disclaimer. I was disappointed, but there were cookies to be made.

Now cookies, I know. I baked with my godsisters all the time growing up, but I learned my lesson from the first time I tried them by myself: they spread on the tray and looked like a baked puddle. I don’t think I’ve had a failed batch after that. For this one, I wanted to try a new recipe, but didn’t want to risk an unknown source. I followed this Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe from Smitten Kitchen because she has never failed me before. I tweaked it a little bit by reducing the sugars by 2 tbsp, not wanting it overly sweet. They still came out perfectly chewy, but I should’ve trusted Deb. I’m sure those 2 tbsp made a difference in flavor.

Cookie Bites

Salted Macadamia Nut and Choco Chip Cookies

I didn’t want the day to end feeling like a failure, so I thought why not make macadamia nut butter? I’d made (sugarless) peanut butter before when I was hankering for a treat while on my slow carb diet, so I knew it was super easy, and so much healthier than mass produced nut butters. All that mine took were 2 cups of whole macadamias, 1 tbsp of honey, and salt to taste, and I got this creamy goodness.

Healthy Nut Butters

Macadamia Nut Butter

I managed to squeeze all this kitchen time into a couple of free hours I had last Friday, and I gave the treats to my boss on Saturday. The verdict? He loved the burnt toffee brittle, was okay with sharing the cookies, and made no other mention of the nut butter I was so proud of. I consider that a success! ?

This morning, I realized it was my first free day of the week and I was looking for something to do, I saw that I still had a handful of macadamias (a kilo is a LOT), so I made up my mind to try a toffee brittle again. This time, I watched videos and read at least 3 other recipes before getting to work. First, I made sure to use a heavy bottom pot. The last time, I used our regular, metal cooking pot, which could account for the sudden scorching of the sugar? This time I used a glass pot with a lid, because another video said it helps “wash” the sugar to avoid crystallization. I pretty much followed the directives of Stephanie from The Joy of Baking, after watching her super calming video. She was chill, she looked like she knew what she was doing.

Corningware Visions Pot

Using a heavy bottom pot can make or break this brittle

Hamilton Beach Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer

Bought this clip-on candy thermometer for $5 years ago, so useful

After the last step, I just threw in some whole macs before plopping the ooze onto my silicon mat. While still hot, I sprinkled some Sriracha sea salt (love salted sweets) and dropped some chocolate chips on top hoping it would melt (they didn’t). Et voila! The successful, buttery brittle of my dreams. ? I wish I’d flattened it out a little more, but I panicked.

Toffee with Macadamia and Choco Chips

Salted Macadamia Butter Toffee Brittle

Whole Macadamia Brittle

Chopped and ready to give away

Handing these off to ze boss tonight, but my aunt tasted some and loved it. (Mom finds it too sweet). Really had fun with this challenge (who said it was a challenge?) and yeah that’s how I spent my rest day. If anyone is interested in making this, let me know and I’ll cheer you on ?

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