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Today I made divinity candy with pecans, and I'm also making shortbread because it gives me a good chance to use all the cute mini cookie cutters I have, and some of them are halloween-slash-fall themed, and I love them. The little black cat ones are cute especially, and they make me remember my cat, Baxter. He was our oldest and all black and he kind of hated Halloween because there were ALL THESE PEOPLE COMING TO HIS HOUSE WHAT.

But then we started keeping him inside because one year some bunch of assholes broke into the animal shelter and killed all the black cats, and we didn't want him hurt. (Personally I find it hysterical and just that when the group of offenders was found a bystander clocked one of them across the face with a baseball bat, but that's just a bonus.) But I digress.

Anyway, the divinity I count as a real accomplishment since it's the first time I've made it in a long while, and it's notoriously hard to get it to come together right. Essentially the candy is egg whites beaten into stiff peaks mixed with sugar, corn syrup, and water that's come to the hard ball stage (somewhere about 250-260 degrees Farenheit) and vanilla, beaten until it holds its shape, and dropped onto wax paper. I stir in pecans most of the time, but because I forgot to on this batch they just have one pecan half pressed into the top. It works. The trick is getting the egg whites to stiff peaks, because it's a fairly fine line between stiff and broken. I normally use like, a pinch of cream of tartar to act as insurance; it won't keep you from overbeating, but it helps.

Then you stream in the molten sugar--being very careful, because it is rocket-hot and is for all intents and purposes culinary napalm--slowly while you've got the mixer running on high. Run it for about five minutes after you get the sugar mix and vanilla in, and it should look something like marshmallow fluff; white, glossy, fluffy and sticky like flypaper. I use two spoons sprayed with nonstick spray to get it onto the wax paper; you push it off one spoon with the other, and sort of twirl the spoon so that, ideally, it looks smooth and like the top of a dairy queen ice cream.

Mine never look like that. They always turn out a bit more like this instead--and you can tell the ones on the left were slightly hotter when dropped on the sheet, because they're smoother--which is fine by me because I'm not a pastry chef nor do I really worry about impressing people with how my candy looks. It's all about the taste for me.

But even more than that baking makes me feel calmer, and makes me feel like the people--women especially, though the men too--in my family before me would be proud. These aren't necessarily family recipes, but they take work and the results make people smile, and that's really what I'm going for. I don't know if I love it enough to make it my career, because I don't want to be bullied into making it professionally every single time, and if I don't absolutely love it then that could turn me off it forever. And I'm already mostly done with a history degree. I like it better as a career anyway.

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