by Kathleen Allison Johnson
When I was in high school I always brought my own lunch, but as the child of two chocoholics, I'd buy a slice of English Toffee dessert whenever it was offered in the cafeteria. I got to know the "lunch ladies," and when I graduated (in a class of 814), I asked if I could have the recipe. They generously gave it to me, but their recipe made 300 servings.
I've always loved math as well as a challenge, so I figured out how to cut the recipe down to a more manageable size (an 8"x 8"x2" dish). I've been out of high school for (ahem) a while, so I'm guessing the lunch ladies are long gone and the recipe is probably no longer served.
In college, I became a vegetarian and never made English Toffee again because it called for gelatin, which is made from collagen in the connective tissue found in animals' skin, tendons, and ligaments – ick!
Fast-forward to today. Friends were coming over for dinner and a decadent chocolate dessert was expected. But what could I make that I hadn't already made countless times before? I'd recently read about Pomona's Pectin and decided to try the English Toffee, but substituting Pomona's Pectin for the gelatin. I read through Pomona's website for tips on how much to use and sent an email requesting advice. Mary Lou suggested using between ½ teaspoon and 1½ teaspoons. I chose the middle route and used 1 teaspoon.
The resulting dessert looked as I'd remembered, but I was a little worried my tastes had changed with time and exposure to other cultures. It seemed rather sugary to me; gratifyingly, my friends loved it.
Fearing my test subjects' – er, friends' – reactions may have been an anomaly, I made it again to serve at an Iceland travelogue I recently presented with my husband. Results were shockingly similar, with one woman declaring it to be chocolate mousse in disguise.
When I make English Toffee again, I'll cut back on the sugar – but that's just my taste. For all you other non-recovering chocoholics out there, consider giving it a try on your own test subjects, especially those who are vegetarians.