Homemade candies add a special holiday touch

Making your own goodies is an easy way to craft Christmas treats while creating lasting memories

    It’s Christmastime, a season when children go to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
    Sugarplums aren’t exactly common, but candy certainly is standard at this time of year. And while store-bought candies are handy, it’s not that difficult to make your own confections — everything from rich fudges to creamy caramels to crisp toffees — from scratch.
    In addition to a fresh homemade taste, you’ll also be creating memories.
    Homemade candy is not only a delicious treat to set out during holiday gatherings, it can be beautiful. Decorate candies with melted chocolate, candy sprinkles — seasonal shapes such as snowflakes and snowmen are fun and add a festive touch — or dried fruits.
    And remember, homemade treats make a great gift for family and friends. Package them in unique ways ­ Instead of a box, use a festive tin. You could also stack candies in a vase or a glass container, covering them with plastic wrap.
   Line the container with parchment or waxes paper with colorful tissue paper underneath to create a beautiful package.
    Always use high-quality ingredients when making candy, because the final flavor reflects the ingredients used.
    And use butter unless the recipe calls for margarine or shortening. These other spreads contain less fat and more water that can alter the results.
    Following are candy recipes from chocolatechocolateandmore.com.



Peppermint Marshmallow Brownie Bites

1 package brownie mix and ingredients to make them
42 mini peppermint marshmallows
12 ounces white melting chocolate

    Bake brownies according to the two-egg directions on the back of the box. Do not over bake — the brownies should be soft and fudgey. Let cool completely.
    Cut brownies into 42 bite-size pieces. Flatten each piece and place a marshmallow in the center. Roll into a ball, place on a wax paper-lined tray and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
    Heat white chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until melted and creamy. Using a toothpick, dip each brownie bite in the chocolate, then set back on the wax paper and top with sprinkles. Let set, then store in a sealed container.
    Use regular mini marshmallows if you can’t find the peppermint marshmallows.


Whiskey Dark Chocolate Truffles

1 pound dark chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup whiskey
1 teaspoon sea salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder or sprinkles for rolling, optional
    Place chocolate, heavy cream and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in whiskey and sea salt and whisk until smooth.  Refrigerate two to three hours, until completely chilled.
    Use a small cookie scoop, mellon baller or spoon to shape the mixture into desired size and shape, rolling between your hands to smooth the edges. Roll each ball in a bowl of cocoa powder or sprinkles if desired, then transfer to a serving place or storage container.
    Enjoy immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for as long as one week.  



Peppermint Patties Recipe

3 to 4 tablespoons half-n-half
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-3/4 cups powdered sugar
16 oz chocolate candy coating or chocolate bark
2/3 cup crushed peppermint candy canes

    Mix together two tablespoons half-n-half, coconut oil, corn syrup, peppermint extract, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add one to two additional tablespoons of half-n-half if the dough is too crumbly.
    Form dough into a ball and roll into a circle about 1/4 inch-thick on a silicone mat. Place dough in the freezer about 15 minutes, until firm.
    Use a small circle cookie cutter to cut out peppermint patties. Return to the freezer for about 10 minutes.
    Gather the scraps of peppermint patty dough, form a ball and repeat the freezing and cutting of patties until all of the dough has been used.
    Melt chocolate in the microwave. Working in batches, remove several peppermint patties from the freezer and coat them in chocolate. Place on a silicone mat and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies.
    Continue with the remaining peppermint patties.


Malt Ball Bark

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons malted milk powder
3 ounces malt balls, chopped

    Place bittersweet and semisweet chocolate in a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until glossy and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
    Pour melted chocolate into a 13-by-9-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper. Spread into an even layer with an offset spatula, then chill in the refrigerator about 25 minutes, until set.
    Remove dish from refrigerator while taking the next step.
    Place semisweet chocolate and malted milk powder in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until glossy and smooth. Remove from heat and let stand five minutes.
    Pour melted chocolate over dark chocolate layer, then carefully spread into an even layer using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with chopped malt balls, pressing gently to adhere. Chill in the refrigerator about one hour, until completely set.
    Carefully lift parchment paper and place bark on a cutting board. Trim away any ragged edges, then use a sharp knife to cut into pieces. Pack in an airtight container with waxed paper between layers. Store in the refrigerator.
    Mskes16 pieces.


Homemade Turtles

8 ounces roasted, lightly salted pecan halves
25 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half
16 ounces roughly chopped chocolate, melted
Sea salt, optional

    Make piles of five to six pecans, overlapping the nuts to reduce gaps, on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
    Place the caramels and half the cream in a medium microwave-safe bowl and heat on high power for three to four minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until caramels are melted.
    Add about one tablespoon caramel to the top of each pecan pile. Set aside.
    In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat eight ounces chocolate on high power about one minute on high power. Heat in 15-second increments until chocolate can be stirred smooth. Place about two tablespoons chocolate on top of each pecan cluster.Add a pinch of sea salt to the top of each turtle.
    Allow turtles to firm at room temperature or place in the refridgerator or freezer before serving.
    Store in an airtight container at room temperature for weeks or in the fridge or freezer for many months.


Cream Cheese Mints
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Food coloring of your choice

    In a stand mixer or a bowl using a hand mixer, combine softened cream cheese and sugar. Mix on low until blended, then increase speed and mix until well combined.Add extract and mix.
    Place mixture into a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Allow mints to stand at room temperature for an hour to set, then place in the freezer to harden.
    Instead of a piping bag, you can place the mixture into a zipper bag, cut the corner and squeeze mixture onto wax paper.
    Store in an air-tight container.


Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups white chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Red food coloring
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Line an 8x8 square pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
    In a microwave safe bowl, microwave dark chocolate chips and one tablespoon butter on 50-percent power for one minute. Let rest one minute, then heat for one minute at 50-percent power. Check to see if melted. If necessary, microwave another 30 to 45 seconds to melt. Stir until lumps are gone.
    Stir in half of sweetened condensed milk. Press mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch square pan lined with foil and coated with cooking spray.
    Repeat steps, melting white chocolate chips with one tablespoon butter, until completely melted. Stir in remaining sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract. Add food coloring until mixture is desired color. Press peppermint layer over the dark chocolate layer and sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top . Gently press chips into fudge.
    Refrigerate at least two hours to set before cutting into squares.
    Store in an airtight container.


All Natural Pomegranate Gum Drops

3 tablespoons or about 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
1-1/8 cups pomegranate juice
3 cups granulated sugar, plus more for coating

    Put 3/4 cup pomegranate juice in a saucepan. Sprinkle with the gelatin and let sit five minutes.
    Bring 1-1/8 cups juice to a boil in a different pan, then add to the juice-gelatin mixture. Stir to dissolve the gelatin.
    Add sugar and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer — keeping it gently bubbling — for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
    Pour mixture into an 8-inch square pan lined with plastic wrap and coated with cooking spray. Let cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator four hours to overnight.
    Coat a surface with sugar, then gently lift the cold jelly out of the pan, using the plastic wrap to hold it. Turn mixture over onto the sugar. and coat the top with sugar.
    Slice jelly into approximately 1/2-inch strips, then into 1/2-inch cubes.
    Coat all surfaces of the candy with sugar and let air dry for several hours.


Divinity Fudge

3 cups white chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
About 1/2 cup chopped pecans
6 to 8 pieces divinity, roughly chopped

    Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, extending the sides of the foil over the edges of the pan. Mist with cooking spray and set aside.
    In a medium saucepan, heat the white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will melt and become smooth but very thick.
    Once it is melted and smooth, gently stir in the chopped pecans and chopped divinity candy.
    Immediately spread fudge mixture into the pan in an even layer. Allow the fudge to set at room temperature for about an hour, or refrigerate to set for about 30 minutes. Once set, cut into small squares.





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