Food: Sweet confections for the holiday season
I always thought it was sort of odd that people would actually make candy. After all, in just about any store, there is usually an entire aisle devoted to sugary sweets.
This way of thinking was one I developed at an early age until my grandma Doyle taught me otherwise. She was a big candy maker and always enlisted my help when I would visit.
Grandma had lots of equipment for these sweet projects which she kept in a box on a high shelf in her kitchen. That box was filled with all kinds of interesting paraphernalia such as colorful foil cups, delicate dipping tools and little plastic molds. When she would bring the box down, I knew a good portion of the day was going to be devoted to dipping, wrapping and molding.
I can recall one time helping her make thousands of mints for an aunt’s wedding; to the point I thought I would never eat another mint again. But then I was so proud when I actually attended the event and saw these little confections displayed so elegantly at the guest tables.
Then my thinking went from it was fun and delicious to make candy, but just too time consuming to pursue for one person. In addition, I didn’t want to invest in all the paraphernalia.
And then a few weeks ago I saw a commercial for Rollo Candy Turtles.
“How easy,” I thought, “and with no boxful of equipment needed.”
Last weekend I attended a holiday party and brought a double batch of these delights and they were a big hit. That got me to investigating other candy recipes and I found several that are delicious. In fact, I even enlisted the help of some neighborhood kids who were more than happy to sit around the kitchen table helping me make candy. They each took a little bag home to share with their parents and siblings. Then the rest (after heavy sampling) I divvied up into little bags to give to friends and coworkers. They always elicit a “wow” or other exclamation.
Now I have changed my way of thinking as far as making candy goes. This is a process I sort of enjoy, especially on a cold and snowy day and with a group of friends. It’s like an art form more or less, and a sweet one at that. I think Grandma would approve.
Rollo Candy Turtles
1 pkg. small regular shaped pretzels or waffle squares or rounds
13 oz. pkg. unwrapped Rolo candies (aprox 60 in package)
1 pkg. pecan halves (toasted), almonds or M&M candies
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place pretzels individually to form one layer only. Place one Rolo Candy on top of each pretzel. Place the baking sheet in a 250 degree oven for 4 minutes or until the candies softened. Immediately remove from the oven and quickly place a pecan half on top of a candy and push down to squish the chocolate into the pretzel and flatten out.
Cool for 20 minutes, then place uncovered in refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set. Transfer to a decorative plate. Toasting Pecans: To toast pecans, spread them out on a plate and microwave for 30 seconds at a time. Stir the pecans around with your hand in between cooking times until toasted. If you do not like pecans you can use almonds or M&M’s in place of the pecans.
Christmas Butter Mints
½ cup butter, softened
3 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 TBS. half-and-half or milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. peppermint extract
Red and green food coloring if desired
In a large bowl, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cream and extracts. If desired, divide dough into portions and knead in food coloring. Form into balls by teaspoonfuls; flatten into patties, or roll between two pieces of waxed paper to 1/8-in. thickness and cut into desired shapes. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Store in the refrigerator.
Lime Melt-Away Creams
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 Tbs. lime juice
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup marshmallow cream
3 tsp. chopped lime zest
5 drops green food coloring
1 lb. white chocolate
1 tsp. shortening
Green candy food coloring (optional)
Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Combine 2 cups of powdered sugar, butter, marshmallow cream, lime juice, salt, lime zest, and food coloring in a large mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until smooth and evenly incorporated. Slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar in batches, stopping often to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until well blended. If mixture is too stiff, add a bit more lime juice. If it is too sticky, add a bit more powdered sugar. Roll into balls ¾ inch in diameter, and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Chill for 30 minutes in refrigerator before dipping. Melt the white chocolate with the shortening in the microwave or over a double boiler. If you are coloring the chocolate, stir in the candy food coloring at this point. Dip the cream centers in the melted chocolate one by one and return to the baking sheet. After all centers are dipped, return the sheet to the refrigerator to set the candies before serving. Candies can be topped with a sliver of lime zest, if desired.