Sweet talking in the kitchen

Toffee and peanut brittle will make great gifts — if snackers don’t get to them first
By: Susie Iventosch
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Auburn’s Darlene Kotey is a candy maker from way back. For more than 50 years, she’s honed her toffee and peanut brittle skills and has always enjoyed giving candy to friends as holiday treats. But, she’s had to be very clever about where to store the goodies because her five children, it seems, have special radar for these tasty treasures. Darlene remembers one year she decided to hide the candy in the trunk of her car, so the kids couldn’t find it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very rainy holiday season, and the humidity ruined her candy. “The kids were so pleased,” Darlene said. “They told everyone they got even with me for trying to keep it from them!” Nowadays, it’s not just her kids, but also the grandchildren who do the looting. And there are 11 of them, so she needs to be extra cautious about her hiding spots! “Even if she wasn’t my mom, I’d still say her candy and baked goods are amazing,” said Jim Kotey, Darlene’s youngest. “She really could package and sell them!” And, I have to agree. Though I’m no candy-making expert, these two recipes are delicious. She sent me the candy page from a family cookbook that her sister-in-law, Susan Kotey Heffernan, and her niece, Judy Farnsworth Moyer, put together many years ago. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my daughter and I made both of them, and it looks like it’s my turn to be vigilant. My son ate almost half a batch after dinner one night, leaving just one piece in the tin! Sorry, friends. But, the good news is both recipes are easy enough to try yourself. All you’ll need are the right ingredients, a candy thermometer and a top-secret hiding place! Darlene’s English Toffee Ingredients 1 cup butter 1 1/3 cup sugar (use only pure cane sugar) 1 tablespoon light corn syrup 3 tablespoons water 1 cup coarsely chopped, blanched almonds, toasted 1 cup finely chopped, blanched and toasted almonds (slivered almonds work well here) 12 ounces Ghirardelli chocolate, melted (I used the Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate chips) Directions Melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring now and then to hard crack stage, 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. (We stirred frequently and took the candy to 305 degrees on the thermometer.) Take candy off heat. Quickly stir in coarsely chopped nuts. Spread in well-greased (Darlene uses PAM) 13x9 inch baking pan or dish. Cool thoroughly. Turn out onto waxed paper and spread top with half of the melted chocolate and sprinkle with half of the finely chopped nuts. Cool on the counter for 30 minutes and then refrigerate for another 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Cover with waxed paper and invert. Repeat process with remaining melted chocolate and nuts. Break into pieces and store in a secret hiding spot as fast as you can! Kotey Family Peanut Brittle Ingredients 1 cup sugar 1 cup light Karo syrup 1 package raw Spanish peanuts (12-14 ounces) skins on is fine 2 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons baking soda Directions Mix sugar and syrup in heavy skillet. Add peanuts and cook over medium heat until mixture is golden-brown (amber) in color and peanuts begin to pop, approximately 15-20 minutes, or until candy thermometer reaches hard crack stage (approximately 300 degrees.) Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Stir in baking soda and pour mixture into buttered jelly roll tin. Cool and crack. This candy sets up immediately. Susie can be reached at