In the Straits of Mackinac that separates Michigan's Upper from Lower Peninsula and connecting Lakes Michigan and Huron, there is an island, Mackinac Island, on which motorized traffic is prohibited. People and things are moved by foot, bicycle, or horse. Taxis, drays, manure and tour wagons are drawn by teams of Belgian and Percheron draft horses, most of which are stabled by one organization.
Several years ago, I took on a job with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, and worked 12 to 14 hour shifts, seven days a week in the big barn mucking out tie stalls, helping harness and hitch up teams, stacking and dispersing hay, and driving the manure wagons to the centralized composting facility.
Toward the end of the season, I spent my days driving a two horse team for the golf shuttle. There is an 18 hole golf course on the island. The lower 9 holes are across from the Grand Hotel, and the upper 9 holes are 20 minutes away by carriage.
One of the things that the island is famous for is its candy... Mackinac Island Fudge... salt water taffy... and English Toffee. All are made there on the island, and are considered by many to be exceptional. Personally, I can take or leave the fudge and taffy. But the English Toffee is to die for. I had to quit the job while I still had money in my pockets and before I rotted my teeth entirely away. I'll never forget that stuff. Pure manna.
Then a few years ago, my wife took me into a local shop in Crandon that imported llama wool clothing from South America. It was the Christmas season, and the owner had placed out a plate of toffee that she had made herself for her customers . I took one piece. Then discretely took another. Then blatantly another and another. It was as good, if not better, than the Mackinac Island version. I told the owner, Barb, that I had to have the recipe.
"Riiight. I'm glad you enjoy it."
"No, I'm serious. If I don't get it, I'm going to forbid my wife from purchasing this ever mounting pile of sweaters, scarves, and mittens."
"Riiight. I know Deb. All I can say is you can try to stop her."
"Aw. Pleeeez? I need that recipe."
"Do you really cook?"
"Well, yeah! I can't live on the frozen pizzas that Deb cooks."
Finally, Deb, overhearing our exchange, came over. "Oh, he's serious all right. He was a scientist. You can't be a scientist without knowing how to experiment in the lab and in the kitchen."
So I got the secret recipe, which she had committed to memory, and have made the stuff periodically ever since.
And only because I know what special people bloggers tend to be, I share that secret here with you. Warning: Do not make this for friends and relatives on a diet (unless you are in a weight loss contest with them).
Barb's La Llama Butter Toffee
- Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet.
- Combine 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) real butter, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, and 6 Tbsp. water in a saucepan.
- Stirring constantly, slowly bring the mixture to a boil, and continue until a candy thermometer reads 300 F.
- Stir in some chopped almonds, if desired.
- Pour onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the hot mix with milk chocolate chips and spread around as it melts.
- Add more chopped almonds as topping, if desired.
- Let cool and break into portions.
Even though this is poured into one large flat piece, and later broken apart, when hubby or kids ask for "a piece of that toffee" you will find that you have to explain that one of those shards compromises a portion, not the whole original one piece puddle. Also, do not send friends home in a car with an unsealed, open container of this stuff, or it will never make it home. Let me know what you think.