Monday, January 10, 2011
A couple of months ago I started mentally preparing for what was coming down the pike... making Grandma's Christmas candies. Every year, along with a cute little grandma style gift (you know the kind I'm talking about), she sends each household a tub of Chex Mix and a batch of her homemade candies. She had expressed an interest in passing the baton, and it was time to take on the tradition. It's just not Christmas without them.
So a couple of weeks before Christmas, my sister and I powwowed over the ingredients, and decided which candies would be the best ones to attempt our first time out. We whittled it down to Peanut Clusters (both milk and dark chocolate), Honeycomb, Bordeaux, and English Toffee.
First off, let me start by saying G'ma Dot is a badass. She sends this stuff out to at least 10 households, and I only made enough for 4 (small batches at that) and was on my feet for 12 hours. Literally did not sit down once. And I didn't even finish in one night! I'm sure there was a learning curve contributing to my candy making speed, but still, hats off to the crackerjack secretary.
A small fraction of the supplies:
Yes, that's corn syrup, both light and dark. Can't mess with the recipes! Not shown, cups and cups and cups of sugar.
First up, the Honeycomb. This was like a science experiment! There's only about a half inch of liquid in the pot while it's cooking. The recipe has vinegar in it, and when you add a little baking soda to the mix at the very end - FFFFFFOOOOOOOOOM! It like quintuples in size. Very exciting, but it's also like 300 degrees while you're pouring it, so this isn't something you want to screw up.
It cools rock hard, then you break it up into bite-sized pieces and coat in chocolate. They taste like cooked marshmallows. Or in my case, slightly burnt marshmallows. I think I went just a minute too long on the heat.
They don't look super appetizing here (nothing in melted chocolate does), but they taste gooooooood.
Next up was the English Toffee. This was pretty easy, even though it took me two tries. I - again - cooked the mixture just a minute too long, but it was easy enough to whip another batch together (there are like 3 ingredients). I think this one turned out tasting the most like Grandma's to me.
Next up, Bordeaux. This was the one I was the most intimidated by. It was the most time consuming, but it wasn't all that scary in the end.
I think I - shocking! - cooked this one a minute too long as well. But this candy needed to heat up to Soft Ball (the others were Hard or Soft Crack), so it didn't burn, just got a little too hard and crumbled a bit when it was time to cut it into pieces. Nothing a little smooshing together didn't fix.
I didn't have a double boiler to melt the chocolate, so I heated it slowly in the microwave and kept stirring as I dipped. It kept it's heat pretty nicely, but the chocolate was always pretty thick. (I did get a double boiler from my sister for Christmas, so I'm looking forward to trying it again with really warm chocolate!)
The end of Grandma's instructions said, "Add a few sprinkles while they are still wet. Make them look elegant!" I tried...
Next up, peanut clusters. So easy and simple. Just peanuts and chocolate. Yum yum yum!
Last, but not least, the Chex Mix. Recipe right off the box, but she uses Spanish peanuts (they have the skin on them) and pretzel sticks.
Ahhhh. The end! I'm exhausted! :)