Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Candies

Brett and I spent a good majority of the weekend in the kitchen (we spent a minority of the weekend watching a Ninja Warrior marathon) and we ended up using almost five sticks of butter. Yes, that sounds like a lot. Yes, I feel like Ina Garten or Paula Deen. No, we did not eat all that butter, nor will we be consuming it over an extended period of time. In today's post I will be telling you how we used two and a half sticks of butter. I will save the other two for my next post.

I got it in my head that I wanted to make homemade peppermint patties. We've made homemade fondant filling for candy before, but it was a sticky, goopy, time-consuming, arm-deadening disaster. It was one of those things that could not get any worse, so it had to be better the second time! Making fondant requires a candy thermometer and a strong stirring arm. We heated 1 and 1/3 cups of water, 1/3 cup light corn syrup, 1/4 cup of butter, 4 cups of sugar, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, and 1/8 tsp salt to 240 degrees. I manned the thermometer while Brett washed the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush.

Brett poured the liquid into a 9x13 pan and we left it in the fridge until the pan didn't feel warm anymore.

Then the stirring began. We soon added 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract. It starts out thick and sticky.

We worked in shifts. When my hand hurt or my arm got tired, Brett would take over. For a while it seemed to firm up a little, but the second it felt like it was actually getting thinner, we let it rest. The last time Brett made this all by himself and he stirred it for an hour before he let it rest. We try to learn from our mistakes. After about thirty minutes we let it rest for five and this made all the difference in the world.

It quickly turned to this:

Then we formed it into little peppermint patty fillings. Brett's are the beautiful, perfectly round ones and mine are the lumpy, misshapen ones. We ended up with 136! We let them rest overnight to come to room temperature and form a little crust before we dipped them in semi-sweet chocolate.

Sooooo messy! But sooooo fun! I pretty much licked chocolate off my hands for lunch. (Don't worry, I washed them before touching any candies again.)

Isn't our tree cute? Can you spot Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa? Can you believe that this is our fifth married Christmas, yet our first Christmas tree?

Our next endeavor was the Coffee Toffees that I saw on Zoe's blog recently. This time Brett manned the thermometer while I whisked the butter, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, water, and instant coffee powder together. Brett was not pleased with the heating rate, so we cranked it up to medium-high.

Every sugar challenge I've watched on Food Network warns of the dangers of sugar burns, so I let Brett's steady hand do the pouring. I love sil-pats! I spread the sugar out with a flat spatula as quickly as I could and then Brett got ready with the pizza wheel. The recipe said to work quickly before the sugar hardened, but we actually worked too quickly. Brett's gentle cuts (so we wouldn't damage one of our beloved sil-pats) were going back together almost immediately so he kept rotating through and making new cuts until they finally stayed.

The mixture came to room temperature pretty quickly and was soon ready to be broken along the cut lines.
I dipped these in melted semi- sweet chocolate using a fork instead of my fingers.

Overall, our candy turned out delicious. I can't even begin to choose a favorite. The only problem we had was when the chocolate hardened. Some of our pieces "bloomed." This means that the chocolate became discolored. I actually think that it looks kind of neat. Some of the mints got little lizard spots on them. The discoloration does not affect the flavor at all, so I really don't care, but it is something to study up on for improving our candies next time.

We shipped tins of our candies to loved ones across the country as our little attempt at spreading some Christmas cheer. Afterall, who doesn't love homemade goodies?


Anonymous said...

I can hardly wait to get my little tin. It looks sooooo delicious.

Anonymous said...

Kim, the candy was wonderful. We enjoyed it so much.