Make your own vision of sugarplums

Homemade candies are an easy way to craft holiday treats and gifts while creating lasting memories

It’s Christmas time, 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.

And, in addition to a fresh homemade taste, you’ll also be creating special memories.

Homemade candy is not only a delicious treat to set out during holiday gatherings; it’s a great gift for family and friends.

If you’re making candy, use butter unless the recipe calls for margarine or shortening. These spreads contain less fat and more water,  which 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.

Remember when using a candy thermometer to clip it to the pot after the syrup boils, making sure that the bulb of the thermometer is covered with the liquid.

Stir the candy mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved, but 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 spaceshipsandlaserbeams.com.

 

spaceshipsandlaserbeams.com

 

White Chocolate Peppermint Meringues

 

2 large egg whites, room temperature

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely crushed peppermint candies

 

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a deep bowl with a mixer, using whisk attachment just until soft peaks form.

Add vanilla and salt. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, while mixer is running. Scrape inside of bowl and beat another 15 seconds. Beat until meringue forms stiff peaks

Fold in chocolate chips and 1/3 cup candies with a spatula.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, then drop meringue by the spoonful onto the sheets. Sprinkle with remaining candies.

Bake in a 250-degree oven 30 to 35 minutes, until meringues feel dry and set when touched but are still pale, switching pan positions halfway through.

Turn off oven, open door and let cookies stand about 10 minutes. Let cool on pans.

Meringues will keep two days in an  airtight container.

 

 

Chocolate Caramels

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

In a large saucepan, bring sugar, corn syrup and chocolate to a boil over medium heat and stir until smooth. Add 1/2 cup cream and stir constantly until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees. Add another 1/2 cup cream and return mixture to 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Add the remaining cream and cook until the temperature reaches 240 degrees. Test candy by taking a small dollop and placing it in a bowl of ice cold water. If the candy dissolves, it’s not done cooking. But if it hardens and is soft when you press it, it’s likely done.

Immediately pour the mixture into an eight-inch square pan that’s lined with foil and greased with butter. Let stand at least five hours, until firm.

Using the foil, lift the candy out of the pan.  Remove foil and cut into one-inch squares. If desired, wrap the individual pieces in waxed paper, twisting the ends.

 

 

Chocolate Cherry Mice

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 teaspoon shortening

20 maraschino cherries with stems

20 Hershey’s kisses

Sliced almonds

Black icing writer

Small red candies such as dragees or cinnamon candies

Place chocolate chips and shortening in a small microwave-safe mixing bowl. Heat in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until chips are mostly melted. Stir until the mixture is fully melted and smooth.

Spread a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface.

Hold a maraschino cherry gently by its stem. Dab cherry onto a paper towel. Dip the cherry into the chocolate mixture to coat well. Place on the parchment paper, taking  care to set the  tail (stem) of the mouse into the desire position.

Place a Hershey’s kiss with the flat side leaned onto the chocolate-dipped cherry to form the mouse’s head.

Repeat these steps with about half of the cherries.

Find two slivered almonds that are similar sizes for each mouse’s ears. Break the tip of the narrow end and wedge the ears between Hershey’s kiss and the cherry.

Use the icing writer to make two eyes on the mouse’s head. With a toothpick, dab a bit of the melted chocolate onto the point of the Hershey’s kiss. Place a red candy onto the tip of the nose.

Allow the chocolate to set and harden. Gently peel the mice off of the parchment paper to serve.

 

 

Gingerbread Fudge

4 cups white chocolate chips

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons molasses

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Seasonal nonpareils, optional

In a medium-sized heat-safe bowl, combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Microwave 25 seconds at a time, stirring well after each interval. The chips and condensed milk mixture will be stiff half way through the heating, but will become smooth. After the mixture is a smoother texture, add molasses and stir until the mixture is light brown. Add the spices and mix well.

Pour fudge into an eight-inch square baking dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Evenly spread the fudge using slightly wet, clean hands. Spread non-pareils over the slightly damp fudge. Lightly pat down to set the non-pareils.

Refrigerate for at least two hours before cutting into squares and serving.

 

 

Chocolate Rum Truffles

10 ounces. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/4 cup rum

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chopped pecans, cocoa powder, cinnamon sugar, for rolling

Place chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat 30 seconds, stir, then keep heating for 20 to 30 seconds until melted

In a small saucepan, combine whipping cream and light corn syrup. Heat until it just comes to a simmer, then add to the chocolate mixture. Stir until well mixed. Add rum and vanilla and stir until well mixed.

Refrigerate two to three hours in small bowl, until well chilled.

Place pecans, cocoa powder and cinnamon sugar mixture in three small bowls. Using a small scoop, form mixture into balls and roll in desired topping. Place on wax paper in a container and keep refrigerated.

 

 

Chocolate Raspberry Sticks

2 packets unflavored gelatin, about 1-1/2 tablespoons

6 ounces raspberry flavored Jello

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup hot water

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract

12 ounces melting chocolate or chocolate almond bark

In a small bowl, soften gelatin in cold water, then set aside.

In a medium-sized pot on the stove, combine sugar, Jello and hot water. and stir until dissolved. Bring Jello to a boil over medium-high heat, then add gelatin mixture and slowly boil on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and then stir in raspberry extract.

Coat molds or mini-loaf pans with non-stick spray. Carefully pour the mixture into molds. Let stand overnight.

Remove mixture from the molds and cut into small rectangles or triangles.

Melt chocolate, then dip sliced candies into the melted chocolate. Place dipped chocolates on wax paper.

If desired, drizzle a little white chocolate on top.

 

 

Reindeer Cookie Balls

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

36 chocolate sandwich cookies

16 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate , melted

40 mini pretzels, optional

40 red, brown or black candy-coated chocolate candy, optional

80 candy eyes, optional

Crush cookies into fine crumbs in a blender or a food processor.

Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended and a soft dough is formed. Shape into 40 one-inch balls. Freeze 10 to 15 minutes.

Break pretzels in half.

Carefully dip balls in melted chocolate and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone liner. Press one half of a pretzel onto each side of the cookie ball to make the antlers. Place two candy eyes and one candy nose on each ball.

Refrigerate one hour, until firm.

 

 

Peppermint Patties

3 to 4 tablespoons half-and-half

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3-3/4 cups powdered sugar

16 ounces chocolate candy coating or chocolate bark

2/3 cup crushed peppermint candy canes

Mix two tablespoons half-and-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 half-and-half if dough is too crumbly.

Form dough into a ball and roll into a 1/4-inch-thick circle on a silicone mat. Place 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 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 at a time 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.

 

 

 

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