Week 50 - Christmas Candy
Every year my family makes a rather large amount of candy and cookies for Christmas. We usually make the same things every year, but this year I wanted to make some recipes I've never tried before. I chose from two different books; Two fudge recipes from "Better Homes & Garden's Holiday Cook Book" from 1959, and marshmallows from "The Vintage Sweets Book" by Angel Adoree, pubished in 2013.
The Better Homes & Gardens book is organized by holidays and contains recipes for main meals, desserts and beverages. I chose to make a batch of chocolate fudge and panocha (brown sugar) fudge. Now, I have a confession to make, I've made lots of candy before, but I don't really love making it. It can be temperamental and a batch can easily be ruined by the smallest mistake. Fudge is one of those candies that requires cooking on the stove and attention to temperatures, which I kind of forgot, until I looked at the recipe. Each batch was cooked on the stovetop and brought to temperature and after cooling a bit, mixed until the batches got smooth and shiny.
Both of the final batches of fudge had some issues. The chocolate fudge didn't set up entirely and so wasn't easily cut into tidy squares although it was very smooth and tasted great. The other batch set up too fast and although it tasted fine, the texture was very grainy. I'm not quite ready to call this attempt at candy making a complete fail, as we still ate it, but it wasn't exactly a success either.
The marshmallows were much more successful. "The Vintage Sweets Book" contains recipes for all sorts of sweets and is organized into three main sections. The "Sweet Beginnings" chapter has recipe for sweet cocktails and candy not requiring a thermometer. It also has a number of craft projects like candy boxes and games. The "Softball, Firmball & Hardball Sweets" section has recipes for candies like fudge, gumdrops, bonbons and the marshmallow recipe I used. The "Soft-crack & Hard-crack Sweets" section has recipes for candies like toffee, nougat, brittles and hard candy. As with her other books, this Angel Adoree book is full of lovely photos and illustrations and delicious looking recipes.
The marshmallow ingredients of sugar, golden syrup, salt and water had to be brought to the softball stage and then slowly poured into a mixture of gelatin and water until tripled in volume which took about 10 minutes. I flavored the mixture with mint extract and beat it for an additional minute.
Then the mixture went into a greased cake pan which was covered with confectioners sugar. I added some chocolate sprinkles on top and then let the whole thing set for about four hours. Once ready, I turned the slab of marshmallow onto a sugared mat and cut into squares. I initially tried a knife, but the marshmallow is so sticky that I found a pizza cutter worked much better. In fact cutting marshmallows has to be one of the most satisfying things to do. As it is cut and pulled apart it stretches and then springs right back to its original shape. I think kids would enjoy this part of the process. After cutting each marshmallow was dipped in confectioners sugar to cover the cut parts and they were done.
Unlike the fudge, the marshmallows were a great success. They are very soft and far superior to store-bought ones. I think the mint along with the chocolate sprinkles was a great combination. The marshmallows keep for quite a long time and even after a week were still very soft. They were great eaten alone and in hot chocolate.
As far as candy making goes, I think I'll stick to marshmallows. Even though they did require using a candy thermometer to get an exact temperature, they were really easy and fun to do. I will definitely be making these again, possibly with different flavors and even trying to dip some in chocolate. I'm not sure if I'm ready to make fudge again anytime soon. It's a pain and and I have other Christmas candy recipes I prefer to make and eat. I may give it another try sometime, but for now, I'll just get it at a local shop.
Cookbook: "Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook", from 1959 and "The Vintage Sweets Book" by Angel Adoree, published in 2013
Recipes: Chocolate fudge, panocha fudge and mint marshmallows
Difficulty: The fudge was difficult to get right and the marshmallows fairly easy. All recipes required a candy thermometer
Alterations: I added chocolate sprinkles to the top of the marshmallows
Results: The marshmallows were excellent, the chocolate fudge too soft and the panocha fudge too grainy
Make Again:Yes on the marshmallows, not anytime soon on the fudge