Thursday, December 23, 2010

Candy Making

For the last couple of posts, I just dash off a couple of quick thoughts, imagining that the NEXT time I post, I will really have the time to actually WRITE. But here's the thing: My kids are on Christmas break and I need to play the Wii with them and read to them and bake with them and crush them in Scrabble. I also, realistically, need to address Christmas cards and page through recipe books and dash to the store for the holiday baking supplies and then fly back to the store because I forgot the sour cream. You know how it is.

Holy crap, here is another example: I just now took a break in the middle of this post to make sure the Christmas cards got out in time. I recently got a teasing, but unwanted, comment from someone about not getting theirs until after Christmas, so I felt the burden of getting this done TODAY. Brilliantly, I thought I'd go south to my tiny hometown's post office, where there is never a line, to get my Christmas stamps. If I went north to my current larger town's post office, it would be no closer and I would for sure wait in a sizeable line. Great plan, right? Right, except that, true to the small town post office form, I found that they closed up shop over lunch. When I got there, it was 40 minutes away from the time they would re-open. So I went to the large P.O. and waited in that god-forsaken line. (Why, oh why is there not a bilingual postal worker at a counter at all times?)

Anyway, that's done and now I find myself dashing off another quick post with thoughts and pictures from our family's recent candy making endeavor. Nothing fancy, but these are usual treats from our Christmas kitchen in recent years.

English Toffee

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 t. water
4 chocolate bars

In a heavy saucepot, heat butter, sugar and water, stirring often until sugar is absorbed by butter. I've seen several descriptions to mark the point at which to stop cooking.... until it changes from yellow to amber in color, until it reaches 300 degrees, the hard crack stage. The method I use is to look for that change in color and test the hard crack stage by dropping a bit into a glass of water and checking to see if it turns to hard candy.

Next, pour the hot mixture onto a buttered cookie sheet. (Note: I doubled the above recipe and it didn't quite fill the cookie sheet.)

Immediately place pieces of chocolate bar evenly over the hot mixture.

I found that by the time I had placed the chocolate on the far end of the sheet the chocolate closest to me was already melted and ready to spread. Use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate over the hot toffee.

Put in a cool place and, once hardened, break into irregularly-sized pieces.

Pretzel, Hershey Kiss & M&M Candies (I don't really know what they're called)
Equal numbers of bite-sized pretzels, Hershey's Kisses and red and green M&M's.
(As a side note, when I was a junior in high school, my beloved English teacher, Mr. Jordan, went down a rabbit trail with us in which we wondered whether the term "M&Ms" only applied to the candy in the plural form. Should a singular candy be referred to as, simply, an "M?" We wrote to the Mars company with our query and they responded, to our delight. Would you like to know the official answer? As it turns out, the name of the candy is actually "M&M's Chocolate Candies." That being the case, the singular form would be "an M&M's Chocolate Candy.")

Preheat your oven to 200 while you use your children as free labor to spread a layer of pretzels on a cookie sheet. Next,unwrap dozens (or hundreds) of the kisses and center each one on a pretzel. When the oven is warm, pop in the cookie sheet.

It doesn't take long to melt the kisses, maybe 4-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and press a festive M&M's Chocolate Candy into the center of each. Allow to cool and serve.

By the way, these candies might seem to fall into the category of candies that look pretty and festive, but which you don't actually like to eat. Not so. I really like the salty and the sweet together, the chocolate and the crunch. Yum.


  1. mmmmm yum. I think next year I'm skipping cookies and making candy. Your recipes are so easy and yes, I totally agree about the salt and the chocolate together.


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