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AnnieWilliams

Christmas candy ideas

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Unfortunately, baking a zillion dozen cookies for Christmas is out this year.  We moved into a house where the oven is super old and can't hold a steady temperature.  We can't afford a new oven right now so I have to reconsider what I'm going to put in my gift boxes.  Luckily the stove works great so I'm thinking of doing candy instead of cookies.

 

I was hoping to get some ideas for gift candy that goes beyond the usual fudge and peppermint bark.  It's not that I have anything against that type of candy, I'm just trying for unique candies that are maybe a little fancy and unexpected (but not too weird, if that makes sense).  I might still make a few cookies but nowhere near what I did last year.  I'm looking for about 6-8 types of sweets to put in this year's box.  It's the only gift I give to friends and family so I like a good selection and variety.  Any suggestions?

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I am making   market nougats, peanut balls, rum or whisky balls,  knäck ( soft toffee with almonds), ice chocolates  and  Scottish tablets .

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chocolate mendiants are similar to chocolate bark, but they're usually made with nuts and dried fruits and are round; that could be some inspiration for you.  Check into no-bake cookies - the one that comes to mind is something like rice krispie treats but made with cornflakes into a wreath shape with cinnamon candies for decoration.  So a variation on RKT could be an option; even dipped into chocolate.  And that makes me think of dipped pretzels. And peanut butter balls (buckeyes).  Andiesenjie posted a recipe for sugar plums in the Dried Fruit and Nuts thread that looks like it could be a great source of inspiration....

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Since my mother in law was the cookie queen I have always made candy for Holiday gifts. Mostly chocolate - truffles are not that difficult. Homemade marshmallows dipped in chocolate are fun. I always do peanut brittle and some form of toffee. Clusters of nuts and/or dried fruit dipped in chocolate are easy and fun. There are several threads on here that could give you lots of ideas. (There are a lot of very expert, wonderful candy makers here. I never expect to meet their level but they do give me ideas.)
Elaina

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Turkish delight, coconut ice, chocolate dipped dried fruit, truffles, marshmallows

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Almond Buttercrunch is one I like when I'm thinking candy instead of cookies, also pretzel rods in caramel, pecans and drizzled with milk chocolate.  Pate de fruit.  Chocolate caramels.  Meringue coated nuts.  Nougat.  Meltaways.  Sponge toffee.  Turkish delight.

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Chocolate-dipped candied ginger cubes or slices are a big favorite.  And toffee.  I found this terrific recipe online which is a copycat for Enstrom's Chocolate-coated toffee.  It is my best gift.  And of course, various brittles. 

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Chocolate-dipped candied ginger cubes or slices are a big favorite.  And toffee.  I found this terrific recipe online which is a copycat for Enstrom's Chocolate-coated toffee.  It is my best gift.  And of course, various brittles.

Would you please provide a link to that toffee recipe?

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Dipped/drizzled (various chocolates) pretzels. Candied orange peels dipped partially in chocolate. Home made marshmallows. Sweet/spicy nuts. Salt water taffy.

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Chocolate bark recipe I use is:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/french-chocolate-bark-recipe.html

 

I also make truffles, using various coatings for both taste and good display.  

 

Buckeyes (peanut butter balls dipped in dark chocolate) look best if 1/2 are plain and 1/2 have a walnut piece on top.  

 

Also chocolate covered coffee beans.

 

And, if available chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. 

 

The key to all these candies is using good quality ingredients since there are few ingredients in each recipe.  


Edited by gulfporter (log)
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Deryn mentioned dipping pretzels in chocolate.  Well, there's also coating pretzels in caramel and then dipping them into chocolate.  Confectionery partner Barbara and I have done this one a number of times, with much laughing I admit.  We fashioned the strangest-looking apparatus on which to hang the dipped pieces to make sure they had a nice rounded shape. 

pretzel hanger.JPG

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What fun, Darienne! Very creative. I can imagine you and your kitchen companion devising that device - and it makes me smile. :smile:

 

For several years, I made Christmas gift parcels for family far away, all from my kitchen, full of at least 10 different things in each box - which ran the gamut from 'interesting' jams/jellies using herbs from my garden, pretzels dipped and swirled, marshmallows in pretty colours and different flavours, nougat, cake pops, fruit pates, my 'family-famous' Rick Bayless-inspired sweet chipotle pecans, my 'you can drink this, it's so boozy' Christmas cake, candied orange/lemon/grapefruit rinds, lavender and rosemary shortbreads, on and on. My husband thought I was nuts (though he did like the 'taster' position he was given). And I have to say it was a lot of work - much harder I think than just running out to the local department store - and possibly more expensive (because of course there is always some new 'gadget' I needed to make life easier or more interesting). But, it was THE most fun I had had in years.

 

I would love to have that kind of fun again - but I really have no one to send to any more. Perhaps we Canucks should get together and do a 'Christmas treat' box exchange sometime! (note I only suggest Canadians because of the border/customs issue/mailing time - but, if that doesn't bother anyone, the more the merrier) ... and it doesn't have to be 'Christmas' either - no pressure but might be fun if others are interested. I started soaking the fruit for the fruitcake a month and a half ago.

 

(ick - 'fun' seems to be my word of the day and my brain, on only a single cup of coffee, can't remember where the Thesaurus is.)


Edited by Deryn (log)
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Sugared/Candied Almonds are a simple - yet tasty- treat.  When I lived in Ann Arbor, there used to be vendors in the mall with those Swiss Almond carts, and the aroma would drive me mad!  So, I doodled around until I figured out how to make them. (We had dial-up internet at that time, so searching for things on the computer was a royal pain. I just tried to employ those things that made sense.)

 

I do variations on the sugar/cinnamon/vanilla combination. I've added combinations of cumin, turmeric, cayenne, sugar, salt.    Another variation, I dipped them almonds in dark chocolate, and then panned them in raw cocoa powder mixed with cayenne, tiny bit of sugar and salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Once cooled, I just package them in cello bags, and tie them off with wrapphia ribbon.  

 

Peanut brittle, macadamia brittle, caramels, toffee---I did two versions: milk chocolate/almond, and dark chocolate/pistachio.  

 

None of these items require an oven. When you start checking the market for ovens, try going to Best Buy, and ask about seeing a dinged-up model. I did that for my first candy-fridge 18 years ago. Got a $1,000 fridge for $400- all because of a 4" scratch on one side.  :smile:   I can cope with a scratch.

 

Have fun with your goodies!!!

Andrea

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Deryn, I would love the recipe for your " 'family-famous' Rick Bayless-inspired sweet chipotle pecans".   Thanks.

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Oh dear .. I am sooo bad at 'recipes' because I am an 'intuitive' cook (which basically means I throw stuff in, taste a lot and pray for an edible outcome of some kind). I say Rick Bayless inspired those pecans because I think the first time I made them, many years ago, I did use his recipe but haven't ever since. I go by taste but it seems to me that I looked up his recipe again a few years ago and was surprised that mine didn't seem quite the same any more so I must have morphed it somewhere along the line. My apologies to the master. I have however made these for years and had many requests for more. I warn people if I have been what I think might have been a bit heavy on the hotter elements but no one has ever complained about that.

 

However, that said, this is my method (rather than a precise recipe):

 

I usually make them in large quantities (often 5 lbs of pecans at a time) but it is easier to make smaller batches. I toast the pecans in the oven till they are dry and smell delightfully like pecans. Then, in a large pot, I add a fair amount of dark brown sugar (could be 2 cups or more - I would start with a 1/2 cup for a pound of nuts) and butter (I usually start with a quarter pound stick - again reduce butter to match sugar amount - and I generally use regular salted butter) and cook (while stirring) on medium to low heat until the nuts are well 'glazed'. I once messed this stage up by being impatient and though the nuts tasted great, their coating was granular rather than silky smooth once they cooled.

 

After glazing, I add a mixture of 'spices' including cinnamon, freshly ground cumin, curry powder, chipotle powder, and cayenne, stir well and cook again for a few minutes. The amounts for those are according to my own preferences that day and/or the amount of nuts in the pot, but, the proportions are probably from largest amount to smallest amount in the order listed. This is the point at which tasting is most critical. Even with tasting you will still be 'guessing' at how piquante the end product will be but if you can't taste any heat - add more chipotle and cayenne or you won't have any heat when you are done I have found.

 

Next, add apple cider vinegar. Depending on how many nuts I have the amount could be anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1 cup - I taste as I go - and for me this stuff makes the nuts so I like to keep the taste somewhat prominent. Cook again till the vinegar has nearly gone.

 

The final step is to spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven on low heat for a few minutes. Remove from the oven when 'dry' (sticky dry) and sprinkle with coarse salt (usually sea salt) and let them cool. The stickiness fades as they cool if you got them dry enough - but they taste good sticky too.

 

The flavour 'develops' as and after they cool. It is a bit tricky to get the spice proportions right but the end result is a wonderfully sweet aromatic caramel-ly nut with a lovely apple cider vinegar tartness and a back end heat. They are so addictive! Not 'diet' material mind you but I make them only at the holidays.

 

I know I said this was a stovetop recipe, It indeed can be done entirely on the top of the stove, if you toast in a skillet and then at the end, you just reduce the heat and cook till the nuts are dry-ish - they will be sticky but the moisture should be mostly gone. Have done it that way myself. The oven is just easier if you are making a large amount.

 

By the way, hard as it was NOT to eat them all when fresh, I kept some once and did a taste test to see what the storage time might be. They didn't go rancid, even with the butter in the mix, and were very edible 4 months after they were first made. And that was not stored in the fridge or freezer either - just in a vacuumed packed bag which got opened and closed regularly.


Edited by Deryn (log)
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Thank you all so much for your replies! I have several candy recipe books but I always like the tried and true recipes. I've seen Turkish delight recipes but I've never personally tried it. I love the nut and fruit ideas as well.

Thanks also for the tip about Best Buy! I'm fed up with this oven and I can't wait to replace it!

Darienne, can you PM me your recipe?

Keep the great ideas coming!

Oh, I'd also love to have the almond buttercrunch recipe!


Edited by AnnieWilliams (log)

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Knäck:

1 cup sugar

1 cup  golden syrup or dark cornsyrup  or if you luck out Swedish Ljus sirap ( aparently IKEA sometimes carry this)

1 cup  cream  ( not double) 

1 cup blanched and chopped almond.

 paper candy cups

1 heat proof jug

 

Place a lot of paper candy cups on a  tray. I set our a 100 just because that keeps them tight on my tray and if any wobble or fall over I can pour in the next one.

Pour  sugar,  syrup and cream into a wide and  thick bottom pan and stir twice and let bubble until it hit  125 C.    Now whisk in the  almonds, pour into the jug and then quickly start  filling the papers cups.  Learn a few  new curse words on the way and  bobs you uncle, Christmas is saved if you are a Sweden.

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Deryn, I would love the recipe for your " 'family-famous' Rick Bayless-inspired sweet chipotle pecans".   Thanks.

 

Hi Darienne - I'm not Deryn and the recipe I use is not from Rick Bayless but from Jaz here on egullet.  I use her recipe for Spicy Sweet Walnuts with pecans and substitute chipotle for some or all of the cayenne.  I was going to suggest this recipe to the OP as I think it work out fine in an oven with uneven heat (assuming it does heat :smile: )

I'll also note that the version of the recipe that I saved indicates a wider range of cayenne and I usually use between one and one-and-a-half teaspoons for a pound of nuts.

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Thank you all so much for your replies! I have several candy recipe books but I always like the tried and true recipes. I've seen Turkish delight recipes but I've never personally tried it. I love the nut and fruit ideas as well.

Thanks also for the tip about Best Buy! I'm fed up with this oven and I can't wait to replace it!

Darienne, can you PM me your recipe?

Keep the great ideas coming!

Oh, I'd also love to have the almond buttercrunch recipe!

Almond Buttercrunch starts on page 6 of the confectionery course - here.

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Oh I found  out that you can hold of Swedish ljus sirap on Amazon.com.

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You might want to invest in some desiccant packets if you want to keep any of the boiled sugar sugar candies (nut brittles, hard candy, etc) crisp and fresh. Humidity is the enemy of a lot of these candies.

 

BTW, you can re-use these packets, just bake in a low oven for an hour, cool and seal in a container or vacuum seal.

 

And, Lowe's also puts out scratch n dent appliances in a special aisle at big discounts. Sears has special regional outlet stores where they gather a large selection of such items, it's a department store filled with oddball, slightly abused items.

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Doesn't anyone make divinity any more?  That used to be the favority candy of my family during the holidays where I was a child and I made it for years, until I developed diabetes and had to cut back on the sweet stuff. 

 

Some was colored green (a pale, "sea-foam" green)and contained pecans. some was pink and contained crushed peppermint and some a deep yellow "gold" color that had nonpareils mixed in and of course the white which contained shredded coconut.

 

I recall that it started with a dozen egg whites, beaten by hand by my grandma's cook, who had arms like a wrestler. 

 

There is a very similar but much smaller recipe here .

Note the advice about the wooden spoon...  One does not use a metal spoon because heat travels up that handle rapidly!  Unless you have a metal spoon with a wood handle - or something that insulates it. 

 

They didn't use cookie scoops, they used two soup spoons, constantly dipped in warm water to form and drop the bonbons.


Edited by andiesenji (log)
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