Friday, December 18, 2009

English Toffee and Fingerless Glove Knitting Woes

Today is the final work day that all of my co-workers will be together before Christmas, so I decided to make English toffee for them. I have a tried-and-true recipe that my grandmother used every year at Christmastime. Of all the candy Grandma made at Christmas, her English toffee was my favorite.

          Grandma’s English Toffee

          1 cup sugar
          1 cup salted sweet cream butter
          6 oz. package semi-sweet real chocolate chips
          ¼ cup finely chopped pecans

          Line 15x10-inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper

          In 2-qt. saucepan combine sugar and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasion until candy
          thermometer reaches 300 degrees or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms brittle
          strands (25-30 minutes).

          Quickly spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy; let stand 5 minutes.
          Spread melted chocolate evenly over candy; sprinkle with nuts. Cool completely; break into pieces.

One of the things I like about this particular recipe is that the toffee never comes out hard. I know that toffee is supposed to set up harder, but I like it more when it doesn't. Each time I've made this recipe, I have carefully taken the mixture to 300 degrees, trying to reach that elusive stage of toffee-ness. Fortunately, I have never succeeded.

As I was making my first batch last night, I used unsalted butter for the first time. I quickly learned that is a no-no - the mixture completely separated and was ruined. The next two batches, using salted butter, separated a bit, but not so much that the end result is anything less than delicious!

Another project that I have recently picked back up is the elusive hunt for the perfect round knitting loom fingerless glove (aka arm warmer, aka wrist warmer, aka fingerless mitts). The results of my first attempt, following Lisa Clarke's pattern  here., were okay, but not exactly what I wanted. The yarn was all wrong and I wanted a longer, more luxuriant glove that would gather along my arm, reaching my elbow.

But instead of trying a different yarn, I tried a different yarn and different stitches. The results have been so hideous that I ripped out all of my attempts but the very latest. On this attempt I found that a very tight knit, purl, knit, purl pattern (there is a name for this stitch, but at the moment it just won't come to me) is a nice option, if a bit chunky, when done on the blue round loom.

Then I happened across this funky pair of mitts at Kohl's on Wednesday night and snapped them up, 'cause this dream has been so long in the making with no pair to wear yet, that I just had to have a pair to wear until I make my own.

More resolved than ever to enjoy a pair of my own making (cause, face it, this pair I bought, though cozy, is ridiculous. They were made for a 12 year old, I think. And who knows what will happen if I wash them - they're falling apart after one day's wearing.) I have come up with a plan for what will be my first pair of successful fingerless gloves. I'm going back to Lisa's pattern, same stitch, but I'm going to use a bulkier yarn, this Lion Brand Homespun in the color Regency.

I think it will work because it is super soft and a single strand will still give me some much needed textural interest. My one concern is how tight I should make the stitches, but I'll figure that out in the process.

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