Category Archives: candy

Day 11 of Baker’s Dozen: Sugared Cranberries

Only a few more days till Christmas! I hope you are all enjoying the season and aren’t getting too frazzled by last minute shopping and baking. If you are, this is the easiest holiday treat yet! Takes about 10 minutes hands on time. Can’t beat that right?

This is the first year I’ve seen sugared cranberries, but I can tell you that I will be making them every year now! They are so pretty and really tasty. Tangy and sweet with a burst in your mouth.

From my research I found the original recipe came from Cooking Light, but you can adjust this recipe to your liking and it is very easy to make more or less. Just follow the 1:1:1 ratio and add whatever additional spices you have! I made two cups, so I used 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, and 2 cups cranberries. I also added a cinnamon stick and a vanilla bean for extra spice. But you can omit the extras or add different extras. Totally up to you! I love recipes like this.

These will make great holiday gifts and/or a great addition to your holiday spread with very effort. Enjoy!

Sugared Cranberries

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 2 cups

Difficulty: Very easy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries or frozen, thawed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1/3 cup additional sugar for coating

Directions

1. In a sauce pan dissolve the water and sugar to make a simple syrup over medium low heat. Add spices if using. Let syrup cool.

2. Rinse cranberries and place in bowl. Once syrup is cool (if it is too warm the cranberries may burst) pour over cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. The next day, strain the cranberries. You can reserve the simple syrup for another use, like using in coffee or tea. (Or putting on a sponge cake!). Place a tablespoon of sugar at a time in a bowl and a few cranberries. Toss to coat and place on sheet pan to dry. Repeat the process until all cranberries are coated. You can sprinkle more sugar over the cranberries if it looks like they need more. Let dry a couple of hours and then store in an airtight container.

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Day 8 of Bakers Dozen: Peppermint Patties

Peppermint patties. People either love them or are indifferent to them. I’m in the latter category but my dear hubby has always loved them. He said he used to get them in his stocking at Christmas time. Mint has never been my favorite treat. I’m not one of those girls who’s favorite ice cream is “Mint Chocolate Chip” (it’s coffee, in case you were wondering) and Thin Mints from Girl Scouts were by far my least favorite (I’ll take a box of Tagalongs, please).

All that changes when something is fresh and homemade. I loved these peppermint patties. My husband loved them. My mom devoured them. And, they were easier to make than I expected. I thought I’d be pulling my hair out, but they weren’t hard at all to make. Time consuming, but not hard. And so worth it. Hubby did most of the chocolate dipping. He did a great job, don’t you think? It’s good to have a partner in crime in the kitchen!

This is my second batch. The first batch tasted great, but turned out less than photogenic. The second time around I froze the patties for several hours. It is much easier to dip if they are ice cold. I also added cocoa butter to make the chocolate mixture thinner which made for easier dipping. If you don’t have cocoa butter, you can try a tiny bit of vegetable oil. Or just skip it, but it will be thick and harder to dip.

Right now King Arthur Flour has $3 ground shipping so it is a great time to buy those hard to find items like cocoa butter (which will last for years!), black cocoa, and fiori di Sicilia. And don’t forget the sourdough starter! Merry Christmas to you, right?

Peppermint Patties

adapted from What Megan’s Making

Yield: 3 to 4 dozen

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Prep time: About 1 hour, plus freezing time.

  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 TB light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 TB water, plus more for spritzing if needed
  • 1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1 TB shortening (preferably organic!)
  • confectioner’s sugar, for kneading and rolling – I used about 2 TB
  • 13 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 TB cocoa butter, plus more if needed

1. Mix together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, and shortening in a mixer. It will take a while to come together and will still only be crumbly. If it is very dry where you are, spritz lightly with a little extra water. Once you start seeing large pieces come together, it is ready. You should be able to form a ball and hold its shape.

2. Move mixture to workspace and knead lightly until smooth. You may need to spritz lightly with water. The first time I made these it was more humid out and the dough was easier to work with. It is a little more challenging when it is dry outside. Wrap in plastic and freeze for 15 minutes.

3. Roll dough until 1/8″ (or larger if you like thick patties). Dust with confectioners sugar as needed but try not to go overboard. It will make your dough dry. Return to freezer if dough becomes difficult to work with.

4. Cut into circles. I used a 1 1/2″ cookie cutter. You can use whatever you have. Even a shot glass would work. Place patties on a sheet pan. Re-roll scraps and cut again. Freeze patties for several hours or overnight.

5. When ready for dipping, prepare a double boiler by placing a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering (not boiling!) water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water!

6. Melt 9 ounces, or about 3/4ths, of your chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and add remaining chocolate. Stir until smooth. Return to heat and add your cocoa butter. Add more if chocolate is too thick. Turn heat off but keep chocolate over the water to keep warm.

7. Using a fork, dip the peppermint patty quickly into the chocolate, covering completely and then shaking excess off. Use a knife to scrape patty off of fork back onto the sheet pan. Repeat until all patties are complete.

8. Leave at room temperature uncovered until completely set. Once set, you can cover them, but they may get spots so you are best just leaving at room temperature, preferably in a candy bowl where everyone can enjoy!

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Day 6 of Baker’s Dozen: Candy Cane Bark.

Candy cane bark is everywhere these days, but, amazingly, I just had it for the first time last year. And of course, I love it. I love chocolate and I love candy canes. And this treat just screams “Happy Holidays!” don’t you think?

I know I’ve posted a lot of stuff that I’ve said is easy, and I promise all are, but this is one of the easier ones amongst the easy treats. You don’t even really need a recipe. Just melt some chocolate, add peppermint, add crushed candy canes and you are done! See, easy!

I accidentally made mine thinner than I had planned. Got a little carried away spreading out the chocolate. But, turns out, I like it better that way! It’s more delicate and more pleasant to eat than a thick chunk. I planned it that way…right…

This makes a pretty small amount, but is easy to double. Adjust the candy cane and peppermint extract to your liking.

 

Candy Cane Bark

Adapted loosely from King Arthur Flour

Yield: A couple of cups, depending on how thin your chocolate is

Difficulty: Easy!

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces chocolate, semi-sweet or dark (not chips)
  • 4 ounces white chocolate (not chips, preferably)
  • 2 to 3 candy canes, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

1. Chop both chocolates separately. Bring a pan of water to a simmer. Set up a double boiler: set a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Line a half sheet pan with parchment or silpat and set aside.

2. Melt the semi-sweet or dark chocolate first. Spread onto sheet pan making chocolate as thin or thick as you desire. Set into refrigerator for about 5 minutes to help set. Don’t leave the chocolate in the refrigerator or it will make your chocolate spotty.

3. Meanwhile, melt your white chocolate. Add peppermint extract to white chocolate. Once chocolate is mostly set, spread white chocolate over the chocolate. If it isn’t set yet, you may have swirls, but it looks pretty, I think.

4. Spread candy cane over white chocolate before it sets and gently press candy into chocolate.

5. Let set at room temperature until firm. It was rainy when I made this, so it took awhile to set up. Don’t be surprised if it has to sit overnight. Once set, break into pieces and enjoy!

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Day 5 of Bakers Dozen: Caramel Corn

I should not have made this caramel corn. Shouldn’t have done it. Why? Because I can’t stop eating it! It’s worse than the peanut brittle. Sweet, salty, and crunchy. I should also mention that popcorn is an addiction of mine.  I have an air popper that cooks my lunch for me often. Cause, you know, sometimes I just feel like an easy lunch. And popcorn is perfectly acceptable in my book. Then I had to go and add caramel to the mixture, which is probably making my dentist cringe.

This recipe is very easy. You don’t want to use microwave popcorn – the extra flavors might not work with the caramel. You do need a candy thermometer again, but you don’t have to babysit this caramel. Just cook it, toss with the popcorn and eat! Well, give it a second to cool off. Trust me on this one.

If you want to add nuts I’m sure it would work great. Maybe cut out a little of the popcorn for the nuts added. In Hawaii you can find caramel corn with macadamia nuts. So. Good. Personalize it and enjoy!

Caramel Corn

Recipe from Joy of Baking

Yield: 8 to 10 cups

Difficulty: Easy

Prep time: About 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (110 gr) popcorn kernels, or about 10 cups of popped corn, plain
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110 gr) packed dark brown sugar (I only had light and it worked fine)
  • 1/2 cup (120 gr) light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 TB (28 gr) butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda

1. Preheat oven to the lowest setting it will go (mine goes to 170F). Lightly spray a large stainless steel bowl. Pop the corn into the bowl and place in oven to keep warm. Lightly spray two wooden spoons and set aside. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment or silpat and set aside.

2. Measure your salt and baking soda and set aside. In a medium heavy bottom saucepan, stir together the sugars, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil. Place a lid on pan for just a minute to reduce sugar crystals from forming. Uncover and clamp candy thermometer to pan.

3. Cook to 240F. Add the butter, stir only once, and then bring mixture to 300F. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda and salt. The mixture will foam up.

4. Quickly pour over popcorn and toss with your prepared spoons. Pour onto sheet pan and spread out. Let cool and break into pieces.

5. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days. But it won’t last that long. Yum.

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Day 4 of Bakers Dozen: Sugarplums

We’ve all heard of sugarplums before, most likely from the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker (which everyone must see at least once, in my humble opinion).

But have you ever eaten a sugarplum? Do you even know what is in a sugarplum? I hadn’t, nor did I know what a sugarplum was. Turns out, my beloved Alton Brown had a traditional sugar plum recipe.

They are really easy, almost healthy, and unique. However, I didn’t like them all that much. I don’t like licorice. Anise seed tastes like licorice. I was hoping the anise would be subtle enough for me not to notice, but I did. Good news for licorice lovers though – you’ll love these! I think I’ll try again without the anise seed. I’m sure I’ll love them then.

Try something new this holiday!

Sugarplums

Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: About 60

Difficult: Easy

Prep time: About 30 to 45  minutes (not sure why the recipe online says 13 hours…must be a typo)

  • 6 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
  • 4 ounces dried plums
  • 4 ounces dried apricots
  • 4 ounces dried figs
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup coarse sugar

1. Place the dried fruit and nuts in a food processor and pulse until small but not combined fully.

2. Add the powdered sugar, spices, and honey. Pulse until moist and mixture comes together.

3. Scoop into small 1/4 ounce balls and roll in hand to compress. Then roll in sugar.

4. You are done! Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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Day 3 of Baker’s Dozen: Peanut Brittle

Peanut brittle is a treat I’ve never been interested in before. I like peanuts, I don’t love them. And brittle just has never been something I’ve wanted to try. I’m not even sure when I last tried brittle, but it wasn’t memorable. It just always seemed to be shards of glass with peanuts in it. A little too brittle for my liking.

As usual, homemade makes everything taste better. Because I am officially addicted to this brittle. All day long “just one more bite.” Thank goodness my hubby has hungry co-workers who are willing to eat all of my experiments!

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. She just doesn’t fail me. I even have a little crush on her blog. But ssh…don’t tell.

It’s easy to make. It really is. No thermometer required, although, I admit that did make me nervous! But it worked out just deliciously. I was short 2 oz of peanuts, but I’m glad I was. The amount I used was perfect. It takes a while for the sugar to cook, but you can do other things, like the dishes. Because with all this baking, there’s a lot of dirty dishes left over.

On a slightly separate note….have you ever wondered why it is a called a “Baker’s Dozen” and why that number is 13? According to Wikipedia, back in the day bakers could be punished severely if they shortchanged someone, even if it was accidental. So, they started giving people 13 items to make sure they were short. Another possible explanation is that 13 round items (e.g. biscuits) fit proportionality on a rectangular baking sheet.  And that’s your random history for the day.

Peanut Brittle

Yield: Just under half sheet pan

Difficulty: Easy

Prep time: About 30 minutes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • Vegetable-oil spray or 1 teaspoon butter, for lining the tray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup + 2 TB water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse or flaky sea salt
  • 10 ounces salted, roasted nuts, not chopped

1. Line a half sheet baking pan with parchment paper, or silpat, and lightly coat it with vegetable spray or butter. Lightly spray a spatula and set aside. Measure your peanuts, salt, and baking soda separately and set aside.

2. Put the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a large saucepan, and stir together until all the sugar is wet. Cook over high medium-high, but watch it carefully as it will foam up. Once it does, dial back to medium.

3. Once the mixture turns a medium golden (took about 20 minutes for me) immediately remove from the heat, and carefully whisk in the baking soda followed by the salt (taking care, as the caramel will rise in the pan and bubble some more). Switch to a wooden or metal spoon, and fold in the nuts. (Do not forget to switch or the nuts will get stuck in your whisk. Not fun!)

4. Quickly pour the mixture onto the sheet pan, and spread it out over the pan using the back of your greased spatula before it starts to harden. Alternately, you can slide the parchment paper out of the baking pan and onto a counter, cover it with another sheet, and use a rolling pin, pressing down hard, to roll it out as flat and thin as you would like.

5. At this point you can either let it cool completely (pulling off the top sheet of parchment, if you use the rolling pin technique) and break it into bite-size pieces. Or you can do as Smitten did and while it is still warm, cut into strips.

6. The brittle can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to two weeks. Separate layers with parchment or wax paper. No way will it last that long though.

Enjoy!

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