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Food Matters: Texas beers win big at Great American Beer Fest, plus a recipe for chocolate toffee matzo

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com
Chocolate toffee matzo is one of the recipes in “The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook,” whose authors will be in Austin for the Texas Book Festival Oct. 27 and 28.

COOKING AT HOME

You don’t have to wait for Passover for this sweet matzo treat

If you like to make candy around the holidays (or any time of the year for that matter), don’t miss Liz Gutman and Jen King’s demonstration at the Texas Book Festival cooking tent at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. (All the book festival events are free.) The Brooklyn candy makers have release their first book, “The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook,” (Workman, $17.95), a vibrant book full of step-by-step photos and detailed instructions to help you make sugar do what you want it (make marshmallows) to and not what you don’t (see “sugar bloom”).

Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crunch

This candy has a lot going for it: It’s economical, super-simple to make, impressive to look at, and — oh, right — we totally almost forgot how irresistibly munchable it is. It’s perfect for any kind of potluck or get-together; make it for a dessert swap and watch it magically disappear before your eyes. We use plain, unsalted matzo (we’re control freaks, so we like to put in the exact amount of salt we want), but use whichever kind you like. It can’t help but be delectable. (If you want to fancy this up, add your favorite toppings — we especially like unsweetened coconut, which makes this an alternative to the tooth-jarringly sweet macaroons that are often available on the same shelf as the matzo).

4 1/2 sheets unsalted matzo

1 cup packed light brown sugar

14 Tbsp. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

6.5 oz. (about 1 cup) dark chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp. (18 g) fleur de sel or coarse sea salt (alternatively, you can use ? cup toppings such as slivered almonds, or chopped dried cherries or unsweetened shredded coconut)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the matzo in a single layer on a 13-inch-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Breaking the matzo into pieces where necessary to fill the pan completely. Set aside.

Combine the brown sugar and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, bring to a boil, then continue to cook, still stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and is just starting to pull away from the side of the pan, about 3 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the heat and sprinkle in the fine sea salt, stirring well to incorporate it. Pour it over the matzo in the baking sheet, spreading it in an even layer with the spatula. Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees.

Bake, watching to make sure it doesn’t burn, until the toffee bubbles up and turns a rich golden brown, 15 minutes. If it looks like it’s starting to burn, turn the heat down to 325 degrees.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate over the hot matzo. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then spread the now-melted chocolate evenly with the spatula and sprinkle with the salt or your favorite toppings while the chocolate is still melted.

Allow the matzo to cool completely, 20 to 30 minutes, then break it into smaller (roughly 2-inch square) pieces. Rumor has it that, stored properly — layered with wax paper, in an airtight container in the refrigerator — this will last a week, but, well, we’ve never had it last long enough to test the theory. Makes about 50 2-inch pieces.

— From “The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook” (Workman, $17.95)

BEER

Texas beers win big at Great American Beer Fest

Six Texas breweries brought home nine medals from the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado earlier this month, and the folks at Spoetzl Brewing say this year’s Texas winnings represent the biggest haul of awards for the state since the 1998 festival, which is the biggest annual beer gathering in the country.

Shiner brought home three gold medals, making it the biggest winners out of the representing Texas breweries, and only one other brewery won three golds in the competition out of the 666 who entered (Tröegs Brewing Co. from Pennsylvania). The Oktoberfest won gold in the German-style Marzen category, Bock won in the American-style Dark Lager section and Bohemian Black Lager for German-style Schwarzbier.

“We’ve been brewing our flagship Shiner Bock for nearly 100 years, so we’re especially proud that the judges awarded a gold medal to a time-tested beer that so many people love,” Shiner brewmaster Jimmy Mauric said. “We’re a small-town brewery with only 88 employees, and the recognition we like best is for people to keep drinking our beers. But these medals are a great honor, and you can imagine how proud it makes the brewery and the town to win as many gold medals as any other brewery in the country.”

Real Ale Brewing in Blanco won two silver medals, one in the German-style Pilsener category for their Hans’ Pils, and one for the classic Firemans #4 in the Golden or Blonde Ale category.

Uncle Billy’s Brew & Que , who brought home an award last year as well, scored a gold for the Bottle Rocket in the Kellerbier or Zwickelbier category.

Outside of the Central Texas area, Peticolas Brewing Co. in Dallas brought a gold for the Royal Scandal English-style Pale Ale, Humperdinks Restaurant and Brewery of Dallas landed a bronze in the American-style Amber Lager category, and one of my personal favorites, the Iron Thistle from Fort Worth’s Rahr & Sons Brewing won a silver medal in the Scotch Ale category.

“The record number of entries in the GABF competition shows that the Craft Beer movement just keeps growing. And the nine medals to Texas breweries means we stand up to any other state when it comes to crafting fine beers,” Mauric said.

— Emma Janzen

EVENTS

Food Day brings together advocates

Today, sustainable food advocates from across the country will be hosting dinners, happy hours, farm tours and cooking classes as part of Food Day, a national initiative to get people talking and thinking about the food system. There are a number of local events listed on the official schedule at FoodDay.org or the Food Day Austin Facebook page. Last week, Mayor Lee Leffingwell proclaimed this week Austin Food Week, and one of the biggest events in the area today is the Food Day Fair at the University of Texas from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. along Speedway Plaza and the SAC Courtyard, where representatives from the UT Food Studies Project, Campus Environmental Center, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Nourish International and the Student Nutritional Awareness Campaign will be talking about their projects and how people can get involved.