Category Archives: Candy

Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn is one of those indulgences that seems justified on a cold fall or winter evening.  There are many different types of  Caramel Corn and just as many recipes.  This recipe comes from the folks at Land ‘O Lakes and is the best I’ve ever made.  I used to make it in huge batches, bag it and sell it at the bakery.   If I’m making it for my family, I stir in about 2 cups of roasted and salted peanuts, but these can be omitted.

While it is a bit time-consuming, you’ll be making time in your busy schedule to make it again and again.  7 quarts of Caramel Corn sounds like a lot, and you can, of course, cut the recipe in half BUT…you’ll be glad you made it all!

Start with 7 Quarts (28 dry cups) of air-popped popcorn.  Sort through and remove any un-popped kernels.   Place the popcorn in a very large bowl, one which leaves enough room to stir.

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a large saucepan, combine:
2 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Corn Syrup
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Butter

Bring to a boil.  Stirring constantly, boil the ingredients until a candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees.

Remove from heat and stir in:
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Immediately stir into the popcorn (BE CAREFUL as it is VERY HOT!).  Coat the popcorn well.  Pour the popcorn out onto lightly greased baking sheets.  Bake in the oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  After the hour, line the counter or table with parchment or wax paper and dump the pans of popcorn out onto the paper.  Allow to cool completely.  Break apart the pieces and bag or store in an airtight container.

         

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Homemade Cocoa Fudge

I remember well the evenings when my mom would make homemade fudge.  Not the kind where you melt chocolate chips and add marshmallow cream – mom would have thought of that as cheating!

Typically on a snowy evening, mom would make the fudge base, which is the easy part, because all you do is mix the ingredients and let them cook for a little while.  The hard part was trying to be patient because the fudge needs to cool to room temperature and then we’d endure the long process of mom stirring it with a wooden spoon – always a wooden spoon.  We children fought over who would get to lick the wooden spoon and who would scrape the pan.

Here is mom’s recipe which originally came off the back of a Hershey’s Cocoa can.  I use Callebout Cocoa but you can use whatever type of cocoa powder you have.  The Bad news is: this takes a while to make.  The Good news is: You’ll get a work-out so can justify the calories of enjoying it!

You’ll need a candy/oil thermometer for most accurate temperature reading.

 
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan whisk together:
3 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 can (12 oz.) Evaporated Milk (NOT condensed milk)

Stir constantly until it comes to a nice, rolling boil.  Now, don’t stir at all, but watch it on medium heat and test with a candy thermometer until it reaches 234 degrees.  This process of getting to temperature will take approximately 10 minutes, depending on the heat (and your stove).

  

When it reaches 234 degrees, remove from heat and add:
1/4 cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

DO NOT STIR!  Place the pan on the counter or table and just wait….and wait…and wait…until it reaches room temperature (it took almost an hour!).   Hint: you should be able to touch the bottom of the pan with your hand.

Now comes the work:  Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until it gets thick and starts to lose it’s glossy look (this takes a good 15 minutes).  At this point stir in nuts if you wish (I used walnuts).  Pour into an 8 or 9″ pan lined with foil wrap.

     

Cool completely on the counter.  Refrigerate until set.  Remove the foil and place on a cutting board.  Cut into squares.  Freeze if desired.

Caramel Apples

Do you want to make some child(ren) very happy???  Can you be patient knowing that a big pay-off is coming?  Then you need to make these Caramel Apples!  I know you could unwrap store bought caramels, melt them down with a little water in the microwave and make a caramel for dipping apples, but…do you know how long it takes to unwrap all those little individual caramels?  Actually, Kraft now makes Caramel Bits which is a bag of caramels unwrapped for baking purposes.   Kraft has solved the unwrapping problem, but the taste of homemade caramel far surpasses the store bought.

Making your own caramel from scratch, while requiring some patience, is quite gratifying.  The recipe is simple, the process takes about a half hour, the dipping can be a bit messy…but the result is AMAZING!  Plan now to make these with your loved ones, or maybe for the neighbor kids ; )

Wash, thoroughly dry and place sticks in 8-10 apples*.  (I used wooden chopsticks in mine)  Place the apples on a parchment lined cookie sheet. *Use any crisp apple variety.

In a small, tall pan, melt:
1/2 cup Butter
 
Add to the pan:
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
 
Stir continuously until the above reaches a boil.  Add to the pan:
1 can Condensed Milk (not evaporated)

Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan and while stirring on low heat, bring up to a temperature of 248 degrees F.  The process of getting to the right temp takes at least 20 minutes but more like 30 minutes depending on your stove.   When the temp gets to 248 degrees F, remove from the stove and add 1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract.  Stir to incorporate.

     

Dip the apples in the caramel, turning to coat well.  Place the apples back on the parchment to set.  Roll in garnishes if you wish: nuts, choc. chips, small candies, sprinkles, ,etc..

     

If you have any caramel left, pour it on top of parchment in a shallow pan.  Allow to set up and cut with sharp knife for individual caramels.  OR: wrap it in a plastic bag and re-melt slowly in the microwave for dipping again in a couple of days when the kids start pestering you for MORE CARAMEL APPLES!!!

Oreo Truffles

One of the recipes that has gone round and round the internet is Oreo Truffles.  Rachel and I decided to try them and serve them at her son’s party.  To say they were a “hit” would be an understatement!  I thought we made way too many, but as it turned out, they disappeared in no time at all.

I’m warning you: these are rich AND addictive.  You’ll eat one too many, but have no regrets!

In a food processor, process until fine crumbs are formed:
1 bag of Oreos
 
Add and pulse in food processor until it comes together:
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
 
Refrigerate the “dough” for at least one hour.  Roll in balls approx. 1-1/2″ rounds.  Stick a candy stick (available in craft stores) through the center of each ball.  Press firmly around the stick to secure.
 
Place the balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate again.  (the warmth of your hands will soften the dough as you shape, so refrigerating again will allow them to chill off properly before dipping.)
 
        
 
Melt slowly over a hot water bath:
1 bag of Chocolate Chips (Milk, Dark, White or colored or all –  in separate bowls)

When the balls are sufficiently chilled and the chocolate is melted, dip each in the chocolate up to the stick.  At this point, if you wish to roll or dip them in something such as Oreo crumbs, ground nuts, powdered sugar, (anything, really) do so now, before the chocolate sets up.  Place each back on the parchment and allow to chill before serving.

I suggest storing them in the refrigerator because they melt fairly easily due to the cream cheese.  We drizzled our truffles with colored chocolate after the dark chocolate had set.  These also would freeze well.

“Sinful” Bars

While scanning the internet, I found a recipe made by Heather, of Making Life Delicious.  Heather got the recipe from “The Great American Bake Sale” Cookbook. I knew Rachel and her husband Steve would love because of the peanut butter/chocolate combination.  I asked Rach to make and review these and she anxiously agreed.  She might not agree so readily next time because she is cursing me for the calories of this dessert.

“Sinful is the perfect name for these rich and delicious bars.  They were so divine that I was willing to trade breakfast, lunch and dinner for 1 large piece!  The recipe was extremely easy to follow and reminded me of what we call Buckeyes in Ohio.  The peanut butter- chocolate combination is amazing!  I used extra chunky peanut butter because I knew it would give the bars a wonderful crunchy consistency, but you can use smooth.

The original recipe called for 4 cups of powdered sugar, but I only used 3.  If I were to use this recipe again I would omit the stick of butter that is combined with the chocolate for the topping.  I would just spread melted chocolate to cut the calories of the butter because it wouldn’t compromise the taste and it would allow me to eat two pieces without feeling extremely guilty!   Try this recipe for yourself- it truly is sinful.”         – Rachel

Melt in microwave:
1 cup (2 sticks) Butter
2 cups Chunky Peanut Butter

Stir into above:
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs 
3 cups Powdered sugar

Line a 9 X 13-inch pan with foil allowing it to extend about 2 inches up past the two long sides of the pan.  Pat the peanut butter mixture into the lined ungreased 9 X 13-inch pan.  Refrigerate to chill.

Slowly melt in microwave and then spread on cold bars:
7 ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips
4 ounces Milk Chocolate Chips
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter (optional)

Chill in refrigerator to set.  Pull the foil out of the pan by the edges.  Place on cutting board and use a hot knife to cut “clean” pieces.  Enjoy!!

Question of the Week: Candy Thermometers

Deb writes: “Do you have any suggestions for a good candy thermometer?  What do you think of the instant read thermometer?”

There are many types of food thermometers on the market.  In my opinion, every home kitchen should have both a meat thermometer (for safety) and a candy/oil thermometer (for accuracy).  Here, I’ll just review 3 of the most common types of thermometers.

Instant Read – This type of thermometer has a 1″ dial on top of a probe.  It sometimes needs to be callibrated (make sure temp is set correctly) before use by using either ice water or boiling water.  There are both digital and analog types of Instant Read Thermometers.  Cost is approx. $10.


This is good for:  Probing a food to get an instant read on where the temperature is.

The problem with this type of thermometer is: Since it is meant to just probe the food (stick it into the food).  It is not practical (let alone safe) for holding over a pot of hot liquid to gauge temperatures, such as when making candy.


Analog Thermometer – This type of  thermometer is calibrated to gauge the wide range of heat required for working with sugar and oil. It clips on the side of the pan so you can continually monitor the rising temperature.  Cost is approx. $16.00

This is good for: use it for oil or candy to be able to carefully watching the temperature.

The problem with this type of thermometer is: Temperatures on oil and candy rise quickly initially, but then very slowly as it gets to the right temperature.  This means you have to actually stand at the stove watching the thermometer so you don’t over-heat.  Some also find the analog difficult to read.

Digital Oil and Candy thermometer – Use this type of thermometer for professional results. It beeps & flashes when the perfect temperature is reached and it has 14 preset temperatures for all candy & deep frying needs.   It clips on the side of the pan.  Cost is approx $35.00

This is good for: All types of candies as well as oil.  Since it beeps when the preset temperature is achieved, it allows you to walk away from the stove.  It is also the most accurate.

The problem with this type of thermometer is: You should remove the battery from it each time you use.

I have all of these types (and more) in my kitchen, but I always use the digital thermometer for accuracy and convenience.

Food Memories – Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Cookies

Recently, scientists announced what many of already knew:  There are direct links between food and memories.  Happily, my mother and I shared many memories as we talked about, wrote about and prepared food together. Today is the anniversary of the death of my mother from Alzheimers Disease.  On this day, I always prepare and eat foods that remind me of her.  Please indulge me in sharing this very true story about my mom on her death bed and the last food memory I have with her.

Mom had been placed on “Comfort Care” meaning no food, no tubes, just waiting for her end. I waited at her bedside for days. She hadn’t been lucid enough to recognize family or speak for weeks.  And yet, on the 9th day of not eating, she looked at me and mouthed “choc-o-late”!  No kidding!!  I jumped up and asked her “Mom, did you day something??!” To which she again mouthed “choc-o-late”.  For the first time in a long time, I knew mom was really “in there”.

Against the nurses wishes, I rushed to the nearest store, bought some Lindt chocolate filled truffles and ran back to her room.  I warmed the truffle in my hand, cut it in two, and drizzled the chocolate inside on mom’s bottom lip.  Then…she smiled at me as if to say “thank you, I needed that!”!!!  Not long after, mom went home to be with God.

This isn’t a sad memory – it’s one that makes me laugh, because truly, my mom LOVED chocolate!  She used to purchase her favorite candy bars by the case, not by the bar (luckily for her she had a metabolism that allowed her to eat like this.)  When I was a kid, mom used to make these simple cookies (from a Betty Crocker book years ago) as a treat, sometimes for us kids and sometimes for herself to share with us.  When my children were little, I made them, and now, my daughter will make them for her children. Just a simple little cookie – so many precious memories!


In a medium size pan, bring to a boil:
1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Milk
Dash of Salt

 

Stir constantly and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and quickly stir in:
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 cups Oatmeal (Quick Cooking)

Drop by spoon or scoop onto a piece of parchment.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

Toasted Almond Toffee

My family and guests enjoy having some candy to munch on and I like to make it easy for me as well as enjoyable for them.  This recipe for toffee is super easy as long as you have a candy thermometer.  I like to lightly toast my sliced almonds before using them and sprinkle them with a bit of sea salt to accentuate the chocolate!

In a large saucepan bring to a boil:
2-1/3 cup Sugar
2 cups Butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tabl. Corn syrup
1/4 cup + 2 Tabl. Water

Stir syrup constantly as it comes to a boil.  Set your thermometer for 300 degrees.  Butter 2 cookie sheets and generously spread the toasted almonds (about 2 cups each) on each tray.  When the toffee reaches  300 degrees, remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract (BE CAREFUL – THIS WILL BUBBLE!).  Carefully, pour the toffee over the almonds.  Spread it to desired thickness – it does not have to cover the tray.

Allow the candy to set for 5 minutes.  Divide 1 pkg. chocolate chips between the 2 pans, sprinkling on top.  Allow the chips to melt and then spread over the top of candy.  Once chocolate is set, move the trays to the refrigerator to chill.  Remove trays from the refrigerator, crack the tray on the counter and break the candy into pieces.  Place it in the refrigerator or freezer to keep.

* toast almonds by spreading in a single layer on cookie sheets.  Place in 325 degree oven for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Do not allow them to hrown.

Peanut Butter Fudge

I just have to take a break from cookies – just for one day.  I do have more cookie recipes to come, as well as some candy, and of course appetizers for your parties, and then stunning Christmas Desserts.    All this to come in the next 2 weeks, but for today, my moms recipe for peanut butter fudge.  You’ll need a candy thermometer for the fudge.  Soft Ball stage 235° F.  If you do not have a candy thermometer, you can drop a bit of the hot syrup into cold water to cool it down, press it together with your fingers and it will form a soft ball.  Also, when mom says beat until it thickens, she means with a wooden spoon, not with a mixer.

Peanut Butter “Buckeyes”

How about an easy recipe that your family and friends will love?   Of course, you don’t have to wait until the Holidays to make any cookies or candies, but at a time when you are surrounded by family and friends its great to have a variety of “yummies”.  If you love peanut butter and chocolate, this is the recipe for you! This recipe represents the Ohio Buckeye.  It makes about 3 dozen.

Melt in a pan over low heat:
1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Peanut ButterCombine in a large bowl:

5 cups Rice Cereal
1 cup Powdered SugarPour the melted butters over the dry mixture.  Stir to coat evenly.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.  Form the peanut butter mixture into small balls, pressing firmly together and shaping with your hands.   Place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Melt 1 package of your favorite Chocolate.  Dip COLD balls into the chocolate and place on parchment to set the chocolate. These freeze very well – not that you’ll be able to keep them there.  Enjoy!

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