Sunday, May 16, 2010

the last time I will ever talk about a law class

Of all the dubious decisions I've made in law school, taking Antitrust and Bankruptcy in the same semester definitely ranks somewhere up near the very top. As you might guess from the date on my last entry, finals period swallowed me alive. It took me until after graduation to recover.

My stress level during finals is best measured in baking supplies. This time, I went through five pounds of flour and five pounds of sugar, and when my friends asked if there was anything they could do to help, I told them to send butter. For three weeks, everyone who crossed my path ended up with sweet things (and possibly sugar shock.)

I'd like to say I'm never going to write another blog entry about law again. Unfortunately, I have to say a little about Antitrust in order to explain how I managed to get through so much sugar.

Several months ago, Hershey, Cadbury, Mars and Nestle were targets of a huge number of antitrust lawsuits alleging an enormous price-fixing conspiracy. So when I took Antitrust, I hoped we would talk about candy manufacturers.

A discussion of Hershey, Cadbury, Mars and Nestle would have fit perfectly into the syllabus when we were studying cartels and collusion under Section One of the Sherman Act. We could have examined the case as a conscious parallelism problem, and contemplated the relevant product market.

Alas, the semester came and went without a single reference to candy of any kind. But it left me with candy on the brain, and so, in addition to my usual pre-finals purchase of a five-pound bag of flour, I also picked up a five-pound bag of sugar. And proceeded to make vast quantities of caramels.

Recipes for caramels abound, but a particularly simple way to prepare them is to boil together sugar, invert sugar (some kind of syrup) and cream until you reach the "soft-ball" stage, stir in toasted nuts, and drop spoonfuls of the sticky mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper to harden. It's quick and easy - barely more involved than baking cookies - and the chewy, crunchy, buttery results are quite addictive.

So that's that: the last time I am going to talk about a law class, ever. I've sold my Antitrust casebook, and tossed all my notes, and I'm hoping to forget about concepts such as monopsony and the cross-elasticity of demand as soon as possible. But I will be making more caramel.

I just have to buy another five-pound bag of sugar first.


Nut Caramels

I like these with hazelnuts or almonds, but you could also use walnuts or pecans.

(Makes two dozen. They'll keep in an airtight tin for quite a while.)

Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper on your countertop. Ready a candy thermometer.

Get out a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Dump in two-thirds of a cup of brown sugar, a half-cup of heavy cream, a half-cup of golden syrup, and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.

Give everything a quick stir. Set the pot on a burner over medium heat. After a few minutes, the mixture will start to bubble at the edges. After a few more minutes, the whole thing will be foaming, with the bubbles rising and breaking very rapidly.

Stick the candy thermometer into the mixture, making sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. The reading will hover around 200F. Wait. After a few more minutes, it'll creep up futher, probably to 225F.

You'll wait for what seems like forever before it starts to move again, but keep a close eye on the thermometer. When it does, it will do so quickly. Once it rises above 240F, pull the pot off the burner immediately. Stir in one-and-a-half to two cups of chopped nuts.

Working carefully, drop spoonfuls of the nut mixture onto your parchment paper, allowing room for them to spread. Give them at least half an hour before you do any taste-testing.

For cleanup, put the pot, spoon, and candy thermometer in the sink, and add hot water. Let them soak. The caramel will dissolve without scrubbing.

When the caramels are cool, wrap them in squares of wax paper. Keep in an airtight tin.

Note: You can make nut toffee in a similar manner by swapping out the cream for half a stick of butter, and using equal parts white and brown sugar. (They can be shaped into squares when the toffee is still warm and pliable.)

17 comments:

Megan Johnson said...

Congrats on your graduation! I hope you get some rest now! Rest and caramels.

WillibaldoEa said...

Your stress is everyone else's joy. Sorry to say.

At least it's all over now!

adele said...

WillibaldoEa - Well, as long as someone's happy...

Megan - Thank you!

Carl said...

Wow, those look *really* tasty.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

I'm with Poodle, your stress this semester was definitely the source of my joy. I have never been kept in better cookies/caramels/scones/cakes. And these nut caramels were particularly delicious.

adele said...

Carl - Maybe I'll see about making them at a mad hippie engineer house study break...

Virgin - You have been one of my very best guinea pigs. Thank you.

Bitsy said...

Don't worry, I'm happy to keep you thinking about the cross-elasticity of demand--as soon as I learn anything that practical. Maybe when I TA 101.

For now, back DSGE models.

But latter I might have a chocolate ginger cookie. :-)

adele said...

Bitsy - No, not that! Anything but the cross-elasticity of demand! :P

Glad you're enjoying the cookies. :)

Lindsey @ pickyeatings said...

Congrats! These look delicious, I love me a good hazelnut, especially when caramel is involved.

adele said...

Lindsey - Thank you!

Bobbie Sue said...

Adele--Very nice post. I wonder about the "never" but appreciate the sentiment. Although you were swallowed whole, glad you were spit out. Do you toast your nuts before adding them? Have you tried that? And, for the hazelnuts, do you use them with skins on or off? I'm inquisitive, is all!

Bobbie Sue

adele said...

Bobbie Sue - I'm rather inconsistent about toasting nuts - I do it sometimes, but not always. For hazelnuts, if I toast them, I'll take off as much of the skins as I can, but won't try to get them completely blanched.

And it is the last law school class! Bar preparation doesn't count!

Julie said...

Congratulations on finishing law school. It's a wonderful accomplishment. I'll bet your friends are now all looking forward to your bar exam and hoping it will set off another wave of stress-related baking!

Your nut caramels are inspiring me. I have been off candy making since my last round of praline making in which I managed to scorch sugar so badly it took the lining right off of a Le Creuset pot.(Le Creuset was very nice about it and sent me a replacement.)

adele said...

Julie - The scorched sugar took the lining off a Le Creuset? Damn. I thought those things were well-nigh indestructible!

Cakelaw said...

Candy on the brain is not such a bad thing - way more interesting than anti-trust! Hope the exams went well.

~~louise~~ said...

Yeah! You did it!!! Happy Graduation, Adele!!!

Caramels, oh so goodness...

Thanks for sharing and sharing and sharing...

adele said...

Louise - You're welcome!