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Posts Tagged ‘candy’

You’re broke.  I’m not trying to be a prick, but you are.  You lost your job, you had to downsize your life, and get a lame part-time job.  While all of these  things are huge set backs, you don’t have to be the Grinch at your holiday get-together nor do you have to show up with the bag of coal (which I imagine is an expensive gift anyway – and total NOT green…).  I wish I could instruct you on producing homemade jams and other canned goods but alas, no one has offered to let me borrow their canning supplies (save my BIL 2,000 miles away).  Instead, load up on some chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, corn syrup, and some booze because you are staying home and turning your kitchen into a candy factory!  Let’s give the gift of sweets, made with love – something I haven’t yet seen a commercial about from Hershey’s.

Here are a few things that I want to remind you to make as gifts:

  1. Diable Peanut Brittle.  I know one ought not think of evil thoughts like…diablo during such a festive season.  But it’s good and your receivers will be way pleased.

2.   Caramel:  Who can resist the milky goodness – and heavy cream laden caramel?  It’s so delicious, and clearly                         made with love.

3.   Chocolate Covered Caramels:  If you want to get super wild, take the caramels from above, cover them in                      your favorite chocolate (I always prefer bittersweet when baking with an already very sweet product), dip,                          decorate and fin.

4.   PEANUT BUTTER BALLS: You have already ‘wowed’ your friends, family, mail delivery person and cats with your candy making abilities.  However, now is the time to really suck up to that manager of yours and make peanut butter balls.  Though somewhat time consuming, the general idea behind PB Balls is simple; it merely involves the creaming method, tempering chocolate and coating peanut butter, after of course you formed them in to balls (many ball-base comments to follow). I totally gave you the tools in the above posts to set you up to dominate PBBs!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 # butter (two sticks) melted
  • 2 cups of your favorite peanut butter (chunky, creamy natural?  I don’t give a damn  These are YOUR balls!)
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 cups dry/powdered milk (found in a box, not in an aluminum can like evaporated milk)
  • 2 cups of cheapo corn flakes – because why would you get Corn Flakes?  Let the PB do the talking here.

Take all of the above in your mixer and cream until thoroughly blended.

At this juncture, you PB mix is going to be way too warm to ball up.  Just place it all in a bowl and keep in the refrigerator until it and you, are ready for more work.  I needed a culinary beak for a few days, but when I was good and ready, I started balling them up.  I chose to make each serving only a teaspoon – big enough for one bite – then proceeded to roll the peanut butter in to a ball in my (clean) hands.  I set the balls aside on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  After heavy handling like this, the mixture becomes warm and needs to cool down over night before being coated in chocolate.

I put the cookie sheet with the balls in the freezer to get nice and hard.  A day or so later, I was ready (mentally anyway.  If you are mentally ready to dip over 100 PBBS in chocolate the next morning, they WILL be ready to go.  Unless your freezer is set to tropical rather than tundra) to temper my favorite bittersweet chocolate to dip the balls into.

Using candy dipping tools, a fork, or a skewer, merely coat and shake off any excess chocolate from the balls (dark – and I assume bittersweet chocolate – should reach a temperature between 110-120F to be tempered.  Though I am new to the game so I welcome any credible advice).  Have another  parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet ready to place the newly chocolate coated balls on.  The first few dozen will harden up quickly since they are so cold.  However you want o make sure that your chocolate is not so hot as to melt the PBBs.  Though tempered  at 120, you should coat the chocolate at a temperature ranging between 86-90F.  Will you live if it is a tad warmer?  Yes.  Though it may not have the same beautiful finish a week later.

Since we eat with our mouths and eyes, the last thing you want your gift receivers to think of is rabbit poo as they bite in to your delicious PBBs.  So when the chocolate has hardened, make it look pretty by drizzling some chocolate over it, all spidery-web-like.

When finished, I like to put the balls in the freezer again to harden up the PB though I am unsure if it is necessary.  The PB mixture is awesome and the corm flakes add a really nice mouth feel, but more importantly, your recipients will be wowed.

If you get done making all of this candy and feel as though it still needs some bulk, add an assortment of wonderful citrus from your favorite co-op, like clementines, grapefruit, navel oranges or pears, and other seasonal fruits.  Maybe a package of your favorite coffee or tea?  Whatever you choose, your recipients will be so pleased by all of the wonderful goods that YOU created from your kitchen.  It really is a gift from the heart, home and hands.  Your time and effort have a value, and you have created a meaningful gift that will leave your friends, family and mail man talking each year about what a fantastic gift you gave them, even when we are again in boon times.

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Changing seasons, weather and holidays invoke varying tastes and desires – to me.  I’m not going to speak for you, so don’t get all up in my face about how much you love candy cane bark throughout the year.  However, there is one candy that really transcends at least two seasons and four holidays: caramel.  You can eat caramel in the fall, whether plain or draped over tart apples with a popsicle stick through its core.  Then caramel milks its way through the rest of winter while invoking comfort and security.  Security? YES.  Each bite of a soft caramel is pure security if for no other reason (that I can find) other than it invokes home, warmth, fireplaces and…security.  Wouldn’t you want to gift that to someone?

First, whip up your favorite batch of caramel, and cut it up into small servings.

BUT, before you wrap it up all cute in individual wrappers made of wax paper (see – homey, cute and sweet!), temper your favorite chocolate in a double boiler.  When it has cooled down somewhat, take a regular/two-tined serving fork or your favorite candy dipping set and dip your caramel in to the chocolate.

However, be careful to get enough of the chocolate off our caramel so as to not develop chocolate feet on the bottoms.  Having the right tools when dipping will also immensely help in avoiding this.  However, if this advice fails you, rest assured that these feet can be amputated as soon as the chocolate has set.

It’s one thing to give the gift of security, as best as chocolate covered caramel can, but it is another thing to give the gift of ugly.  You HAVE to pretty it up, which means nothing more than waiting for the chocolate to set then drizzling chocolate over it.

Do you see the difference?  DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE!? No feet and super sophisticated.  Your friends, family, mail carrier and paper delivery person will be so excited to receive such a beautiful and tasty gift that your friends and family will forever be indebted to you because they will want this treat in years to come.  Your mail will never be returned to you even when you did not include enough postage and your paper will always be at your stoop on time, unless your neighbor steals it.

See?  Security in caramel.

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Diablo Peanut Brittle

I got into making candy.  Really, I. Got. In. To. Making. CANDY.  I’m not one much for peanut brittle, or any nutty candy (Nut Rolls being an exception – weird) but figure that I am not like a lot of people and since this candy was for other people, I tried my best to please them.  Let’s face it, peanut brittle, while charming during the winter doesn’t fit in with the other six months of the year.  Until now.

Never having a candy making extraordinaire  in my family, I didn’t have reliable recipe and like most things, utilized the Internet to find a recipe which conformed to ingredients I already had on hand.  That’s when I came across this recipe.  It is really straight forward and full proof so long as you keep your watchful eye on the thermometer (which you already learned when we made caramel).

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The peanuts I bought were roasted dry peanuts from the big box grocery store from the bulk section.  You get a lot more bang for your buck when buying in bulk rather than buying jars and jars of Planters.
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Maybe at this point you’re wondering what’s so great about this peanut brittle that makes it different from your Christmas kind and thus appropriate at other times of the year.  The method has been the same, the ingredients have been the same.  So What gives?

Stop.  Go through your spice rack and scour it for some spicy goodness.  I don’t have a spice rack so I had to go through the spice cupboard and took out some cayenne and red pepper flakes.  I  merely eye balled the amount I put in (I also thought this was a good idea since I already drank four beers at the time) and hoped for the best.  If  had to guess though, I’d say I put in a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and maybe a tablespoon of cayenne.
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You can really see how the cayenne changes the color of the brittle.

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You can see the color more here as the candy is nearly done.  It just needs to cool and harden.  I poured all of the contents of the pot on to two Silpat sheets.  If you don’t have Silpats, pour onto greased cookie sheets.  Using my hands, I stretched the candy and distribute the peanuts, but not so far as to have any peanut-free pieces.  When it fully cooled I broke it into individual pieces.

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It was hard to decipher how much cayenne and red pepper flakes to add.  I like spicy things spicy and this did not fulfill that for me.  However, the spices were also not distributed evenly, so I may have had some weak pieces.  This merely means that I will have to try again!  More on that later…

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