October 14, 2013

Gorp Toffee with Sea Salt


Gorp Toffee with Sea Salt

Last week I was invited to spend the day with some local food bloggers at the headquarters of General Mills, located here in Minneapolis. We toured their photo studios (incredible) and test kitchens (super incredible), but the most fun part was they let us use their kitchens to cook with cereal (in advance of National Cereal Lovers Week—happening right now) and we didn't have to clean up after ourselves! It was like being at camp. Here's what I learned:

  • General Mills is an impressive company with an impressive campus that's like a sun-filled, well-decorated and lushly landscaped Pentagon. The people who work there are even more impressive (in a friendly way) and seem genuinely happy to be there (and most have been there for a long time so that speaks for itself). 

  • I should NOT be using my convection oven in recipes I post here unless specified. Apparently most consumers don't use them, even if they have this setting on their ovens. Why not? It's faster, people. Much faster.

  • It's fun cooking with a bunch of food bloggers who like to sample cereal flavored cocktails after lunch and can talk endlessly about food props, lighting and the recipes that got away.

  • Rice Chex makes a very crunchy coating, similar to panko. I made some meatballs rolled in Chex and they were crispy and delicious. I'll share that recipe when I can remember exactly what I put in them. I'll blame the aforementioned cocktails. 

But, I have to confess, all I really wanted to do is cook with Cheerios's. I love this cereal - the iconic yellow box, the toasty, clean, comforting flavor and the fact that they are truly good for you. It got me thinking about the Cheerios I used to enjoy in "gorp" at Camp Ajawah when I was a kid. So I turned an updated gorp (almonds and cherries standing in for the peanuts and raisins) into a terrific toffee. This is like trail mix encased in crunchy caramel, either with or without a little chocolate glaze. 




Gorp Toffee with Sea Salt

Makes about 20-24 pieces

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1 cup whole natural unsalted almonds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Cheerios
1/2 cup dried cherries
Flaked sea salt
3 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate (optional)

1. Chop almonds roughly and set aside. 

2. Spread Cheerios, then cherries over the bottom of a sheet pan to create a platform for the toffee (you don't need to butter or spray because the cereal will keep it from sticking). 

3. Put butter, sugar and corn syrup into a heavy saucepan. Put over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until butter melts and it begins to boil gently (bubbles at sides and a few in the middle but not roiling). Add almonds and stir slowly and continuously at a low boil for 7-10 minutes or until caramel is dark brown and almonds are fragrant (they toast as they cook). 

4. Immediately remove from heat, add vanilla and stir vigorously (it might sputter). Pour gently and evenly over Cheerios and cherries and smooth as best you can with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with salt and let harden in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Break into chunks with your hands or a a heavy knife.

Note: You can also add a layer of chocolate by sprinkling 3 ounces of chopped chocolate bar or chips onto the toffee before the salt. Just sprinkle the chocolate, wait a minute for it to melt and spread with a spatula or back of spoon, then add the salt. 






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