A twist on traditional toffee recipes with a subtle, rich taste from the infused roots. This is super easy to make and something fun to do with kids on a snowy day. Anytime one is melting sugar there must be close adult supervision to avoid burns or accidents. Dandelion can be quite bitter and not appealing to children as a taste. Yet even the young can really benefit from its healing qualities in small amounts hidden in a treat.
You will need a candy thermometer. Also make sure you have a hot mitt handy and nearby.
Cover a sheet baking pan with parchment paper.
Measure out 1/4 cup dried or coarsely chopped dandelion/burdock roots. Place in a saucepan with 1 cup of almond or other milk. Let simmer on low for 15-30 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out the roots. Set “milk” aside.
While you are simmering, toast 3/4 cup of chopped pecans in the oven at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Now to a large cast iron or heavy bottomed pot add
2 cups (16 tablespoons/2 sticks) of butter OR vegan substitute (no coconut oil).
1 and 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
Your infused “milk” top it off with more milk if need be to measure 1/2 cup total.
1 TBSP of brown rice syrup (honey, maple syrup, agave if you need a substitute)
1/2 a tsp of salt
With the stove set at medium high let your ingredients melt. Then begin to stir constantly with a wooden spoon. The trick is to keep your mixture from scorching, burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is handy to have one person stir and the other to hold the candy thermometer in the liquid. The thermometer should not touch the bottom of the pan but it needs to be submersed. It will take more time than you think to get above 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most recipes say you need to reach 285 degrees/soft crack stage but we tried two different thermometers and barely got above 200 before we needed to pour. This is well past the stage where it melted or got bubbly. So look for a substance that is thick/dense, not transparent, and a pale gold color. It will start to separate from the sides of the pan and pool in the middle, sliding around as one mass as you stir. It might start to burn at this point and it is probably ready. You can remove a small spoonful and see how hard it gets upon cooling in the freezer if you have time. Immediately pour onto your pan. (Reminder melted sugar is very hot and can leave a terrible burn even if just a drop).
Spread evenly on the sheet pan with the wooden spoon. Sprinkle on the nuts and press them onto the surface with the back of the spoon. Cool in the refrigerator or better yet in the snow.
While cooling you can melt white or milk chocolate chips in a double boiler. Use a fork to flick/drip lines on the top of the toffee once it is cool and solid.
Break toffee up into pieces. We got about 15 large pieces from the above recipe which can easily be doubled if you have a crowd.
Latin Name: Taraxacum officinaleFamily: AsterSubfamily: Cichoriodeae/Chickory
Taraxacum has yellow ray flowers that overlap all the way to the center. There is no round disk in the center like other plants in the aster family. The “petals” are straight and do not taper. It has bracts/modified leaves where the stem joins the flower instead of sepals. It has a hollow, round stem full of a white, latex like, sticky sap.There are related plants that look like dandelion (sap, yellow flowers etc.) BUT Dandelion has a reddish green , non branching stem that is 2-6 inches long (sometimes 18). The leaves do not grow off the stem, instead they grow around the base in a ring. There is one flower per stem .The leaves are very serrated like teeth , they get broader towards the top before ending in a point. Nothing about a dandelion is prickly or hairy. Single seeds look like a tiny parachute but together form a white fluffy ball.Habitat-lawns, parks, fields, waste land. Dandelion likes poor soil. Blooms and makes seeds all year round. One of the first flowering plants to appear in spring.Growing:will grown anywhere. Self seeds. No need to cultivate, it is an invasive but useful weed.Edible parts:Root, leaves, flower heads.Harvesting:Dandelion roots and leaves are most bitter in the spring, this is also when they have most medicinal qualities. Plants growing in the shade may be less bitter. Pick flowers mid morning when they are dry and have reached their biggest size. Wash well, the root may need to be scrubbed with a brush. When picking be aware of contamination from pets and pesticides/herbicides. Watch for bees, it is their favorite source of food right in the early spring.
Historically Dandelion has been used as a diuretic (water retention) and laxative (constipation). As a tonic it cleanses the blood/tissues/organs of wastes/toxins and clears heat. Dandelion is useful for skin disorders (acne, cysts, fibroids, poison ivy, rashes, eczema, abscesses etc.), hay fever, candida, allergies, varicose veins, gout, rheumatism, and weight loss. It cools heat (fever) , stimulates the immune system, and removes infection ( sinusitis, bronchitis, mastitis, hepatitis, herpes, and mono just to name a few) Internally Dandelion is best known for its action (astringent, tonic, stimulant) ) on the digestive system (gas, indigestion, appetite loss, heartburn, ulcers) the bladder ( urinary tract infection) liver (jaundice, cirrhosis) and gallbladder (gallstones) pancreas, spleen, and kidneys (kidney stones). Internally the flowers can be used for pain/anti-inflammatory (arthritis, cramps, headaches, and backache). Externally the flowers can be used for wounds and fungal infections. The sap from the stem is thought to remove warts.
Culinary uses- coffee substitute, wine, beer, syrup, jelly, baked goods, stir fry, juiced, pickles, and salad green just to name a few. Herbal products products-tea/infusion, tincture, oil/salve. The fresh leaves can be added to salads and soups or the dried to condiments to add a mineral source to the diet.
Contraindications: safe during pregnancy and nursing in small amounts. Because it is in the aster family, it may cause allergic reaction in people sensitive to those kinds of plants. The sap may cause contact dermatitis.