Tag Archives: Candy

To be completely honest

I know it’s almost sacrilegious to admit this, but if I’m being completely candid, this time of year doesn’t really do it for me.

There, I said it.

I think it may have something to do with the year my mother gave me and my sister There’s No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein as a Chanukah gift.

To be simultaneously presented with what felt like the best. idea. ever. and told that it was never going to be an option, well, I think that it’s safe to say that almost 20 years later, I’m still not over it.

This ranks up there in the cannon of childhood disappointment with the realization that, despite my countless campaigns, I was never going to get a puppy.

I may be exaggerating slightly. (I am prone to do that, after all.) But, the fact remains that, at least for me, it’s a little hard to get into the holiday spirit at this time of year, when it’s not really my holiday. Don’get get me wrong, I can appreciate a well trimmed tree—the pagentry of it all. But, mostly, I think about where all of the Manhattanites are keeping their oranments and find myself grateful for the extra space for my clothing.

I suppose it’s safe to say that I’m always just slightly out of step anyway. After all, in the next few weeks, I’ll be providing you with Thanksgiving recipes. And, I’ll probably give you a recipe for latkas sometime in April.

I’m working on it.

The first step, for me, seems to be finding my way in through cooking. My logic has always been as follows: host a dinner party, get into the spirit. I’m going a little more low-key here. The sweet and salty spiced nut recipe that I’m sharing with you below was part of my holiday gifts. After all of the cloying sweetness of the season, these are a nice change. Delicately sweet, with a jolt of heat at the end. It’s a palate cleanser. And, if you’re looking for that last thing to put on your table during your New Year’s Eve party, these are it. They’re filled with protein, to coat your stomach in case you have one too many (not that I’ve ever been guilty of that, mind you), and come together in a little over twenty minutes, although your guests will never know.

Happy holidays to you, whether you’re celebrating in front of a well appointed tree or the glow of a movie screen. May your days be merry and bright.

Sweet and Salty Spiced Nuts
Recipe Courtesy of Serious Eats

1/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 lb mixed nuts (I used peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts)
1 egg white, at room temperature
1 TBS water

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

In a large bowl, mix sugars, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne until it is combined and free of lumps. In a small bowl, beat egg white and water until it is frothy but hasn’t created soft peaks. Add nuts and stir to coat. Add nuts to sugar mixture and toss to coat evenly. Spread nuts out on prepared baking sheet, taking care to spread them into one layer. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Let nuts cool, breaking up any large pieces that have formed.

Makes 1 pound of spiced nuts



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This one’s going to be good

Truth be told, I really don’t like candy corn all that much. Or, certainly not enough to warrant spending several hours making it from scratch. And, yet, that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you about.

Stay with me, here.

This is where things get good. And, where I admit that I made the candy corn simply because wanted a reason to tell you about this photo:


It may not be immediately apparent, but in this photo, my sister is dressed like Belgium. Yes, Belgium. Just go with it. You can tell on account of the Fleur-de-lis that adorns her dress (I don’t buy it, either).

I’m America. You can tell because I’m wearing gingham. And, because of my really, really big hair which is barely contained by the puritan style bonnet.

There’s a long and complicated story behind the costumes, but essentially, what you need to know is this: my mother and aunt went to a sleep-away camp when they were growing up in the 1960s. These costumes are from those days. My mother kept them and, every year, my sister and I would get excited to break them out for the holiday.

The year before we were Iran and Iraq. Those costumes consisted of big pants, bikini-style tops and head scarves. As I write that it occurs to me that it must have been a mild fall on the east coast that year. Also: that, evidently, there was no such thing as political correctness in the 1960s.

It was only years later that it occurred to me that dressing up like a country wasn’t a typical Halloween costume and was, frankly, a little weird. The tip-off came from old photos of the Countrywood Elementary School Halloween parade. All of us kids would come to school dressed up in our costumes and parade around the parking lot so our parents could admire us. There I am in all of the pictures, flanked by my classmates who are dressed as pumpkins and princesses. I’m in my gingham dress with my Puritan bonnet. I can only imagine what the other adults must have thought when I told them I was America. I was such a happy-go-lucky (translation: “lacking in total common sense and unaware of social cues”) child, that it didn’t even occur to me that it was odd at the time. Of course, I found the photos during my too cool for everything early teen phase. So, in the interest full disclosure, this is now one of those stories that I tell every Halloween. And, as I slowly overcome my adult aversion to dressing up, I’m considering investing in a new gingham dress.

When I called my sister to ask her if I could share the photo with all you, she had one stipulation: You can post it, but only if you also mention the year that our mother paid us so that we didn’t have to go trick-or-treating. Of course, that’s a whole different story for a different time.

For now, enjoy this candy, and have a happy Halloween!

Candy Corn
Recipe courtesy of Serious Eats

1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup salted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup powdered milk
1 tsp vanilla
red and yellow food coloring

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sifted confectioners’ sugar and powdered milk. Set to the side.

In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup and butter. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Once it reaches the boiling point, reduce heat to medium and continue stirring for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the vanilla extract and remove from heat.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and powdered milk mixture to the wet ingredients; stir well until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated and smooth.

Let the dough cool until it is firm enough to handle, about 30 minutes to an hour.

Divide the dough into three equal parts and set each third into a separate bowl. Add 2 to 3 drops of yellow food coloring to one dish, one drop of red and two drops of yellow to another dish, and leave the remaining dish uncolored. Knead the dough to which you have added food coloring until the color is even, using gloves (I used sandwich bags. Which looked ridiclous, but did the trick). If the dough is feeling very soft or sticky, you may want to chill the dough for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator before proceeding with the next steps.

On top of a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper, use your hands to roll each color of dough into a long, slender rope. You can roll it out to your desired thickness: for larger candies, make each rope thicker; for smaller candies, make each rope thinner.

Line the three ropes of dough together: white, orange, and yellow. To ensure that they will stick together, lay a piece of waxed paper on top and give them a very gentle rolling with a rolling pin. You just want to adhere them, not to flatten them.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough into triangles. Keep a damp cloth nearby so that you can wipe off the knife if it begins to get a candy residue. This method will result in half a batch of traditionally colored candy corn and half a batch with yellow tips. Let the finished kernels sit for an hour or two (do not stack them on top of one another as they will stick together!) to become firm.

Makes enough to give you plenty of cavities

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Conversations With My Sister

A typical phone call with my sister:

Robyn: So, I read about green tea ice cream/napoleons/rock candy. You should totally make that. We can make it together! You can blog about it!

Me: Um, yeah, I’m not going to make that.

Robyn: Why?

Me: I don’t really like matcha/I don’t think that I can make it anywhere near as well as a bakery/[blank stare].

2 days later

Me: I’m thinking about making honeycomb. Will you eat it?

Robyn:Honeycomb? Is that like…

Me [at the same time]: a Cadbury Crunchie without the chocolate!

Robyn: Yeah, I’ll eat that.

Me: Done and done.

Recipe from Bon Appetit

1.5 cups sugar
.25 cups water
3 TBS corn syrup
1 TBS honey
1 TBS baking soda

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan with deep sides. Stir over medium-low heat, dissolving sugar.

Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to high, bringing the mixture to a boil. Cook the mixture without stirring it, brushing the sides with a wet pastry brush to keep the sugar from burning against the sides of the pan and swirling the mixture occasionally. Once the mixture turns a pale amber, add the baking soda and whisk quickly to combine. The mixture will foam up.

Immediately pour candy over the parchment lined baking sheet without spreading it out. Leave undistributed for at least 20 minutes, until the candy has completely cooled. Crack into pieces.

Makes 8 servings

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Southern Hospitality

Sometimes, if I try really, really hard, I can almost convince myself that candy is good for me.

Take buttermilk pralines, for example.

They’ve got pecans; good for a quick energy boost. 

The buttermilk? Well, I’ve never been much of a milk drinker, so that’s my much needed daily dose of calcium.

And, the sugar….


Ah, well, you can’t knock a girl for trying, anyway.

On that note, be warned: these candies are incredibly sweet. Hardly surprising given the amount of sugar in them. Toasting the pecans keeps them on the right side of cloying, but just barely.

The first time I tried pralines was back when I was in middle school, on a family trip to Charleston.  Even now, the candies remind me of the city, its leisurely pace and moss overhung streets, of having glasses and glasses filled up to the brim with sweet tea.

The caramelized flavor and their texture, which somehow manages to be both silken and sandy, had me hooked instantly.  I must have had three large ones in one sitting, then promptly started boucing off the walls while my teeth ached.  But, it was worth it.

Now that I’m adult and better versed in the ways of moderation, I like to think I’ve earned the right to savor them. I find they’re best served with a hot cup of coffee at the end of a meal. The edge of the coffee helps counterbalance all of the sugar and make the pralines melt away.

One of these days I’ll make it back to Charleston, but until then, I have buttermilk pralines to transport me.


Buttermilk Pralines

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup whole buttermilk*
1 1/2 TBS light colored corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
2/3 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 1/2 TBS butter
1 TBS vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, buttermilk, corn syrup, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue cooking until a candy thermometer reaches 234 F. This should take approximately 10 minutes.

Once your mixture has reached 234 F, remove it from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Stir nuts, butter, and vanilla into the sugar mixture using a wooden spoon. Continue stirring until the mixture looses its shine. This should take 5-7 minutes.

Using teaspoons, drop the mixture onto a cookie tray lined with a silpat mat or wax paper. Let the candy rest until it has set, about 20 minutes.

Yields approximately 30 pralines.

*Don’t want to bother getting buttermilk? Substitute 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 TBS lemon juice. Just be sure to mix it well before adding it to your candy.


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