Monday, November 19, 2012

Cinnamon Chips and Toffee Bits

If you're like me, you can't always get certain ingredients for a recipe you're dying to make after spotting it online or in a cookbook. Sometimes, it's a case of not wanting to buy a container of something to use a spoonful or two (like Thai curry paste, fish sauce, pickled radishes or apricot jam). Other times, economics rule - I personally can't afford to go out and buy 100% organic ingredients, or always use butter, or pick up items only found in the health food shop... particularly if I won't be eating them in my day-to-day life (case in point: so many of my recipes don't use eggs or dairy because I don't eat them myself!).

Of course, if you live out in the sticks like my neighbours and I do, some things just aren't available - no matter how much you're willing to spend. Around here, if I can't find something at the local superstore or Bulk Barn, I'm S.O.L.. And things come and go, too. For a while, I used to be able to find cinnamon baking chips no problem in the bulk bins. I was on Cloud 9 - finally, I could bake like all my American co-bloggers! And I did, for a while. Then one week I went to go stock up on my new favourite confection and it had disappeared. Poof - gone. No sign of it anywhere, nor any indication it was going to be discontinued. I hoarded the few tablespoons I had left, constantly checking back to see if it would one day re-appear, but no luck.

Then there was the case of the toffee baking bits. Now these are pretty commonplace, even around me. The thing is, the commercially available ones contain both almonds and chocolate, neither of which I wanted in a basic "pantry" ingredient. Not only do I have some clients / taste testers with allergies, but sometimes I don't want those accessory flavours in the finished goodies either!

However, the internet gave me the answers to my ingredient dilemmas - and I didn't have to place online orders or pay insane markups for shipping and duties either! Nope, the solutions lay in two extraordinarily simple, relatively cheap recipes that anyone can make on their own at home. No special equipment is required for either formula, just an oven, a stovetop, a pot, a couple bowls and some baking sheets lined with parchment. Of course, if you're anal about candy temperatures (or, like me, suck at gauging "ball" firmness with hot sugar) a cheap, reliable candy thermometer will help you out with the toffee. Mine was about $7 at the grocery store and has been invaluable!

The great thing about making either the cinnamon chips or toffee bits at home is that not only are they cheaper, but they're fast! Making your own ingredients, instead of scouting around for them all over the city, keeps you out of the grocery store and "in the black" when it comes to baking this holiday season - something we can all appreciate!

Have you ever made your own ingredients? What did you make?

Cinnamon Baking Chips
Makes 24 tbsp
1 tbsp vegetable shortening (you can use coconut oil if you wish)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon (use common cinnamon or fancy Vietnamese, whatever you have on hand)
1 tbsp corn syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 225F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone
  2. Combine all the ingredients with a fork (or your hands!) until well-blended.
  3. Pat into a thin layer on the sheet.
  4. Bake 30 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely, then crumble gently.
Amount per Tbsp
Calories: 18.5
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.2 mg
Total Carbs: 4.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.0 g


Toffee Bits
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
2/3 cup salted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Cook until the mixture reaches 310F on an instant-read thermometer (hard-crack stage). Stir occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat and pour onto the parchment, spreading thinly.
  5. Cool completely - about 4 hours - then break into bits.
  6. Store in an airtight container.
Amount Per Serving (1/4 cup)
Calories: 369.6
Total Fat: 24.3 g
Cholesterol: 64.4 mg
Sodium: 172.6 mg
Total Carbs: 40.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.3 g

Submitted to Gluten Free Mondays and Gluten Free Fridays