Friday, December 19, 2008

Classic Candy recipes

12/10/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Homemade candy is one of my favorite Christmas memories. At our house, candy was a treat. It was not something that we had sitting in the cupboard to chow down on. Most of the year, our candy budget was pretty much restricted to penny candy from the neighborhood drug store. A chocolate bar was five cents and a rare treat.

But Christmas was different. At the holidays, neighbors would drop by with plates of homemade cookies and candy and mother always made her special candied nuts. Sometimes my dad’s business associates gifted us with boxes of See’s Candy. The choices were mind-boggling and we kids always argued over the molasses chips.

Today, a delicious piece of candy is still one of life’s simple pleasures. Reduced to its essence, candy is nothing more than a concentrated source of sugar and water, to which a variety of flavorings and colorants have been added. So you might say that today’s recipes are all about sugar.

First, the disclaimer. Candy in copious amounts is not good for you. Sugar provides empty calories, contributes to overweight, rots teeth and makes kids hyper. It is not the stuff that healthy diets are made from.

On the other hand, a small piece of candy isn’t going to kill you. It’s a treat. A condiment. Something to be eaten in small amounts on special occasions. And special treats should taste wonderful! So don’t waste your calories on cheap, lousy, tasteless confections. Save them for only the best melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, flavorful mints and chewy caramels.

The following recipes are family holiday favorites. The Fantasy Fudge recipe has been around forever, is delicious and freezes well. The truffles are elegant with a minimum of work. Try both of the coatings or just roll them in powdered sugar. You will need a candy thermometer for the divinity and nuts but don’t worry if you haven’t used one before it’s easy. Enjoy!

Fantasy Fudge
Microwave and traditional method

1-1/2 sticks butter or margarine
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow crème
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly grease 13x9-inch pan.
Melt butter 1 minute in 4 quart microwave safe, glass bowl. Add sugar and milk; mix well. Microwave 3 minutes and stir. Return to microwave for 2 minutes and stir. Repeat this step again.

Remove from microwave and gradually stir in chips until melted. Add marshmallow, walnuts and vanilla. Mix well and pour into prepared pan. Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds.

Stove-top method:
Combine sugar, butter and milk in large saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. Finish as above.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

2/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Choice of coatings:
One 6-ounce white baking bar OR
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening
Additional toppings: finely chopped nuts, coconut flakes or toffee bits

Heat cream in heavy, 2-quart saucepan just to boiling (do NOT boil). Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips; stir until melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla and jam. Pour into medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until firm.

Line baking sheet with wax paper and drop chocolate mixture by heaping teaspoons onto prepared sheet. Freeze about 45 minutes or until firm. Roll into balls and return to freezer until ready to coat.

Over hot (not boiling) water, melt baking bar or chocolate chips with shortening. Stir until smooth. Drop frozen truffles, one at a time into melted coating; stir gently and remove with fork, shaking off excess. If desired, roll again in toppings mentioned above. Place on baking sheet and chill until set. Store in refrigerator, in airtight container for 1 week (if they last that long!).

Easy Divinity
(Karo Syrup)

2-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Mix first 4 ingredients in 2-quart saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cook without stirring to 265° F. or until small amount forms hard, yet plastic ball in cold water. Just before temperature reaches 265° F. beat egg whites in electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Beating constantly on high speed slowly pour hot syrup over egg whites. Beat until small amount holds soft peaks when dropped from spoon. Mix in vanilla and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Makes 40+ pieces.

Mother’s Candied Walnuts

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
10 regular marshmallows
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 cups walnut halves

Mix sugar, water and corn syrup in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring, constantly. Cook to 238° F. or until soft ball forms (flattens on removal from cold water). Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows and peppermint until dissolved. Stir in nuts until well coated. Turn onto waxed paper. Separate nuts while still warm. Makes 1 pound.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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