Day 10: Marshmallows

Until a few years ago, I never knew that a person could make their own marshmallows. And when you can buy a bag at the store for just a couple of dollars, why would anyone want to bother? Well, that was what I thought before I actually tasted a handmade marshmallow. They are astounding. Of all the candies I have made during this series, this is the one in which the store bought version and the homemade version are really two different candies.

It is hard to describe the difference. Homemade ones are softer, more flavorful, and not as sticky. Plus it’s missing any artificial flavors or aftertastes. All I can say is that they are fabulous.

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Also, they are not too hard. I looked around at a lot of different recipes and I found that they were divided into two camps: ones that used egg whites and ones that did not. It took me a long time to decide on a recipe, but in the end I chose one that did not use egg whites because I thought that would prolong their shelf life. Also, egg whites can be fussy. I used a recipe from this book, which is similar to this recipe on the internet.

Basically, marshmallows consist of gelatin

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that is whipped with a hot sugar and corn syrup mixture.

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I was amazed at how fluffy and white they were with no egg whites in sight! You can add any flavor at the end of whipping. As it was our first try, we went with plain vanilla, though mint was very tempting.

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The mixture is turnout out into a foil lined and greased pan and spread out.

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Then, you have to wait a day for them to set and dry out a bit before you cut them.

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Again, my handy kitchen scissors came to the rescue. To keep the marshmallows from sticking together, they get tossed in a corn starch and powdered sugar mixture.

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The boys and I are already making plans for lemon marshmallows and strawberry marshmallows and mint marshmallows, the list could go on and on!

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I usually think of marshmallows as a topping or something that needs to be melted and mixed with something or a candy that needs roasting. These ones, however, I am planning to eat plain and I have even considered hiding them away for my consumption only. However, I don’t really have to do that because they are not that hard to make. Plus, it’s Christmas, so I have to share. And I will! There is already a little bag of marshmallows waiting in the giveaway box, so leave a comment for a chance to win! Tell me, what is your favorite way to eat a marshmallow?

Day 9: Fudge

In our house, we do not partake of fudge often. The husband dislikes it strongly. You could say he hates it, but hate is such a strong word that we discourage its use. The boys like fudge ok and I like it in small quantities. Do you remember when fudge was quite a “thing”? There used to be a place in downtown Baltimore in the touristy part that sold fudge and the employees would sing and act while they stirred the fudge on a huge marble table with giant paddles. I always loved watching that show, plus they gave out samples at the end.

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Good fudge has a reputation for being difficult, though there are many simplified recipes out there, I really wanted to make a true fudge, one that did not rely on shortcuts. It actually took quite a bit of digging to find a recipe that only used sugar, chocolate, and cream. Ok, there’s a little bit of corn syrup in there as well, but I am finding that most candy recipes call for this ingredient. It keeps sugar crystals from forming in candies and since it is not as bad as that high fructose stuff, I have made my peace with it.

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We found that fudge is really not all that difficult to make. Like many of the candies we have made, all the ingredients go into the pot, everything gets stirred up until it is combined, and then you boil it until it reaches the right temperature.

In the case of fudge, after that temp is achieved, it then has to sit around until it has cooled to a certain temp as well. Then, it has to be beaten until thick (hence the giant paddles at the store).

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I wouldn’t say it was hard, just time consuming, though most of the time is spent waiting around.

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In the end, we had some really great fudge. It was creamy and smooth and not as sweet as other fudges we have had. The beating also made the texture a little bit lighter. Walnuts were a great addition.

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Well, this recipe did not change the husband’s mind about fudge. He still really dislikes it, but I personally really liked this fudge and the boys liked it, too. I thought it was better than most other fudges out there and would make it again. Next time, I want to try making it with goat milk. It would be fun to play with different flavors and mix-ins. Any suggestions?

Day 8: Caramel

Like toffee, caramel is one of those things that I could eat every day. I love a good caramel, especially if it has a sprinkling of sea salt. I have made several recipes for caramels in the past and have loved them all. Basically, I am learning with this whole candy making enterprise is that the candies I love the best all involve burnt sugar, otherwise known as caramel.

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For today’s post, I veered from the traditional caramel path and tried Apple Cider Caramels. We had a stray jug of apple cider in the fridge left from making fruitcake and instead of letting it go to vinegar, like I usually do, I decided to try to use it.

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I used this recipe, except I did not already have the concentrated boiled cider. I just took two cups of cider and boiled it down until it was a half cup.

Unlike yesterday’s candy, once this one reached the right temp, it was easy peasy work to just pour it into a pan and wait for it to cool.

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I did not wait for the full amount of time before I started cutting because caramels have a tendency to cool hard and then become very difficult to cut. We let it cool until I was sure the candies wouldn’t lose their shape too much when we cut them, but were still manageable with a good pair of greased scissors. You could use a knife, but I found that the candy kept sticking to it, no matter how much I oiled it. Scissors worked best.

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We really like these caramels. They have a lighter flavor than the traditional caramels and really do taste like spiced cider. Be careful, though, these candies have already claimed the tooth of a little friend of ours and I once lost a crown to a caramel. Eating caramels can be hazardous.

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Still, the taffy and the caramels together will make fun little gifts for the boys’ friends and I am sure some of them will make their way into the candy box I am giving away at the end of the week. So, leave your comment for a chance to win! The boys and I are enjoying a lot of Christmas music as we are candy making. A Charlie Brown’s Christmas is a current fave as well as Handel’s Messiah. What is your favorite Christmas song/piece?

Day 7: Taffy

When I was a girl, I really wanted to join the girl scouts. I was invited by a friend to go to one meeting and I remember it as being a most chaotic and fun time. It was fall. We were in a cabin and the activity was taffy pulling. Perhaps this is where the beginnings of my interest in making my own candy began. I don’t know, but since then, I have always, always wanted to make taffy.

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I envisioned the process as super fun and not too hard. The beginnings were easy. Like many candies, all you need is a good pot and an accurate thermometer. This particular recipe used molasses.

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Once it reaches the magic temp, you stir in some baking soda, and then pour it out onto a greased pan and begin folding it to cool it down. A marble board would be fantastic for this, but I don’t have one.

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When it stiffens a bit and is cool enough to handle, this is when you start pulling. And here is where we stopped taking pictures. It’s awfully hard to pull taffy and take pictures at the same time. Everyone was involved, so we all had slippery buttery hands. We may have started pulling too early because it was really hard to manage. Gravity was definitely working against us! I wanted nice, even strands, but in the end, this is what we got.

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Ah, well, it was still fun and we’ll do better next time.

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The candy is fabulous, though. If you like molasses, you will like this candy. Even if the pieces aren’t too pretty, wrapped up, no one will notice and once it is in one’s mouth, hopefully no one will care!

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We are more than half way through our 12 days of Christmas treats. Don’t forget to leave a comment every day to be entered in the drawing!

Day 6: Bourbon Balls

Today’s confection is half cookie and half candy. It’s pretty quick to make, though it does benefit from sitting for a day or two before eating to let all the flavors mingle together. This makes it easy to fit into the holiday schedule. Also there is no cooking involved, aside from melting chocolate, so could be made by anyone, even kids, though a responsible adult may want to handle the bourbon, ha. Many recipes for Bourbon Balls call for store bought cookies, but I had a whole bunch of leftover cookies from another event, so I decided to use those instead.

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It was quick work to grind them all up in the food processor.

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These get stirred into some melted chocolate along with a hefty dose of bourbon and a few other things.

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The resulting mixture is a little odd, sorta gooey and wet at the same time.

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One of my boys helped me with the sugar rolling process. Some recipes called for rolling these in nuts, but we thought that the sugar would be more festive and sparkly.

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I put them in the fridge to firm up and get all settled. Right after we made them, the bourbon flavor was quite pronounced, but that mellows out after a few hours.

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They are pretty good! I used this recipe except I substituted 13.5 ounces of cranberry chocolate chip cookies that I had sitting around. Cold, they have a fudgey consistency and at room temperature, they melt in your mouth a bit more. Next time, I will try rolling them in chopped nuts since the sugar made them a bit gritty. I love the little bit of bourbon because at this time of year when things are getting busy and stressful, a little bourbon helps!

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