Homemade candies bring joy to the holidays

Crafting goodies is an easy way to personalize Christmas treats and create 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.

Always use high-quality ingredients when making candy, because the final flavor reflects what goes into the treats.

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.

Melt the butter over medium heat and keep the temperature under the pot constant to gradually heat the candy mixture.  

Use a heavy saucepan with high sides and a smooth interior. Some people recommend buttering the sides of the saucepan to keep grains of sugar from clinging.

Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. But make sure to check it for accuracy beforehand by placing it in a pot of water atop the stove. When the water boils, the thermometer should read 212 degrees. If it registers a different temperature, add or subtract the difference to adjust the reading.

Stir the candy mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved, then stir slowly, gently and as little as possible through the cooking and cooling stages to help prevent crystal formation. Sudden temperature changes can also lead to crystal formation, creating a grainy candy.

Following are candy recipes from allrecipes.com.



Homemade Caramels With Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt

1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups 60% cacao dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon sea salt
    Combine sugar, 1/2 cup cream, light corn syrup and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Stir in remaining cream. Cook without stirring until mixture reaches 242 degrees or until a small amount of the caramel mixture forms a firm yet pliable ball when dropped in cold water.
    Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour caramel mixture into a buttered eight-inch square baking pan. Allow to cool slightly.
    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for anywhere from eight hours to overnight.
    Remove baking pan from the fridge and allow caramel mixture to warm up for about 30 minutes.
    Combine dark and semisweet chocolate chips with shortening in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl. Microwave for 1-1/2 minutes in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval.
    Cut caramel into one-inch squares. Dip caramel squares in melted chocolate, shaking off excess. Place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Chill about one hour, until hardened.


Candy Cane Fudge

2 10-ounce packages vanilla baking chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-1/2 cups crushed candy canes
1 dash red or green food coloring

    Line an eight-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil.
    Combine vanilla chips and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until almost melted, then remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth. Stir in peppermint extract, food coloring and candy canes.
    Spread evenly in the bottom of the pan and chill two hours, then cut into squares.


Liquor Infused Chocolate Covered Cherries

1 10-ounce jar maraschino cherries
1/2 cup rum
3-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 6-ounce bag chocolate chips
2 1-ounce squares semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2-inch square food-grade paraffin wax

    Pour cherries, with their juice into a glass bowl. Cover cherries with rum. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerate for one week.
    Drain and dry rum-infused cherries.
    Mix confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup butter, milk and maple syrup in a bowl until smooth and pliable. Wrap each cherry with sugar mixture. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill about 30 minutes, until firm.
    Combine chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate, two tablespoons butter and paraffin wax in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat about five minutes, stirring, until melted.
    Dip each wrapped cherry in the melted chocolate mixture using a toothpick. Return to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cherries. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill about one hour, until set.


Cherry Pistachio Bark

1-1/4 cups dried cherries
2 tablespoons water
2 11-ounce packages white chocolate chips
4 3-ounce bars vanilla-flavored candy coating
1-1/4 cups chopped pistachio nuts
    In a small glass bowl, microwave cherries with water on high for two minutes. Drain and set aside.
    In a separate microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and candy coating until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Stir in cherries and chopped pistachios, and spread into a wax paper-lined 15-by-10-inch pan. Chill one hour, until firm.
    Cut into one-inch squares.
    Store unused bark in an airtight container.


Double Decker Marshmallow Fudge

1/4 cup butter
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cold water
3 .25-ounce packages unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    Line a 9-by-13-inch cake or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, then coat foil with cooking spray.
    Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then stir in condensed milk. Pour in chocolate chips and stir over the heat for five to 10 minutes, until melted.
    Pour mixture into pan. Coat a spatula with cooking spray and use it to press chocolate mixture into an even layer. Refrigerate about two hours, until cooled and set.
    Combine 1/2 cup cold water and gelatin in a bowl, then set aside about 15 minutes, until gelatin starts to thicken.
    Mix sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat for five to eight minutes, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook two to three minutes, until temperature reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
    Slowly pour sugar mixture into gelatin mixture while beating with an electric mixer set on low. Gradually increase speed to high and continue beating for 10 to 15 minutes, until batter is very thick but not stiff.
    Pour batter over fudge, smoothing the surface with spatula coated with cooking spray. Let sit uncovered at room temperature about six hours, until completely set.
    Dust the top of marshmallow layer with most of the confectioners’ sugar. Refrigerate at least two hours.
    Lift marshmallow fudge out of the pan by the edges of the foil and place on a large cutting board. Dip a large knife in the remaining confectioners’ sugar and slice fudge into 1-1/2-inch squares, dipping knife in the sugar after each slice.


Irish Cream Truffle Fudge

4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons butter
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup and four tablespoons Irish cream liqueur
1-1/2 cups chopped nuts

    In the top half of a double boiler, melt three cups semisweet chocolate chips, one cup white chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter until soft enough to stir.
    Stir in the confectioner’s sugar and one cup Irish cream until mixture is smooth. Stir in nuts. Place mixture in a buttered eight-inch square baking pan and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over top. Press and smooth top down.
    In the top half of a double boiler, melt remaining chocolates until soft. Remove from heat and with a fork beat in the butter and remaining Irish cream until smooth. Spread topping over cooled fudge with a knife. If a smooth top is important, place plastic wrap over the top.
    Refrigerate one to two hours, until firm.

Melt in Your Mouth Toffee

1 pound butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

    In a heavy saucepan, combine butter,  sugar and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil to brittle stage, 300 degrees, without stirring. Remove from heat.
    Pour nuts and chocolate chips into a 9-by-13-inch dish. Pour hot mixture over the nuts and chocolate. Let the mixture cool and break it into pieces before serving.


Rum Truffles

8 1-ounce squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chocolate cake crumbs
2 teaspoons dark rum
1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles

    Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
    In a saucepan, combine cream and butter. Place over low heat and bring to a boil. Pour over chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in cake crumbs and rum. Set aside until firm, but not hard.
    Roll heaping teaspoons of chocolate mixture into balls, then roll in the chocolate sprinkles. Place on a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm. Serve in small paper cups.


Peppermint Patties

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening

    In a large mixing bowl, combine condensed milk and peppermint extract. Beat in enough confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, to form a stiff dough that is no longer sticky. Form into one-inch balls, then place on waxed paper and flatten with fingers to form patties. Let patties dry at room temperature two hours, turning once.
    In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with shortening, stirring often. Remove from heat. Dip patties, one at a time, into chocolate by laying them on the tines of a fork and lowering the fork into the liquid. Let cool on waxed paper until set.


Stained Glass Candy

1/2 cup butter
1 12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce package flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 10.5-ounce package rainbow colored miniature marshmallows

    Melt butter and chocolate chips in a pan over low heat. Let mixture cool slightly before stirring in walnuts and marshmallows. Let cool.
    Spread coconut on waxed paper. Divide cooled dough into two even portions. Form each portion into a long roll. Coat the rolls with coconut. Wrap rolls in waxed paper, then again in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or longer.
    Cut into 1/2 inch slices to serve.




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