Saturday, April 14, 2012

Milk Toffee - Have you ever had this candy?

When I was offered a review copy of Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, I jumped at the chance. I didn't know anything at all about Sri Lankan food, and I thought this book could be a good introduction.

The very beginning of the book talks a bit about the country and the cookbook author. A section on ingredients describes the different herbs and spices, and also gives suggested substitutions for the ones that might not be readily available.

There are other informational bits and stories scattered throughout the book. If I'm ever faced with a fresh coconut, I'll know what to do.

Browsing through a new cookbook and trying to choose the first recipe is always difficult. So many things looked appealing - breads, curries, chutneys. And the stories made many of the recipes even more compelling.

The author has a unique perspective - he's the only one of his very large family who was born and raised in the US. So he sees the culture and its food from two different perspectives.

One story was about a woman who worked for the author's family in Sri Lanka. Her name was Leela and she lived with, and worked for, the family for 32 years. When I came across a recipe with her name on it, I had to try it.

The recipe was for a candy called milk toffee and it was quite different from any other toffee I've had. The color is lighter, and it's softer. The flavor reminded me of dulce de leche, which makes sense, since it includes sweetened condensed milk. It's like a cross between a soft caramel and a vanilla fudge.

It starts out being stretchy and a little chewy, but after a few days, the sugars begin to crystallize and the texture changes. And that's exactly what it's supposed to do, based on the author's description.

The recipe calls for a large can of condensed milk, but I've only seen one size here in the US, so I weighed it to get the correct amount. It's about 1 1/2 cans. Now that I've made it, I think I could have used two full cans and increased the butter and sugar by just a little bit, and it would have been fine.Or doubled the recipe and used 3 cans.

Leela's Legendary Milk Toffee

1 large can (525 grams) sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
Few drops vanilla extract
4 tablespoons chopped cashews (optional)

Put the condensed milk, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in a small can.

Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 30 minutes.

Pour onto a greased board and spread about 1 inch thick. Cut into squares while still hot, then allow to cool. Sprinkle with cashews.

I didn't add the cashews. And I needed to cut most of the pieces apart again after cooling.