Christmas is just 18 days away. So instead of talking for the next two weeks, I want to pass on some of my favorite holiday recipes. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Homemade candy and cookies have always been a major part of my holiday season. I guess that it all started with my mother who used to make tons of goodies before Christmas.
First of all because the whole family loved them but money was always short for my family and giving friends and family “homemade treats” eliminated many expensive gifts. As a new housewife and mother, I remember that I made sure that this Christmas tradition was continued with my new family.
In the last few years, I am sorry to say that I found myself not continuing this custom, probably because I now spend the winter in Florida and do not have family around. Next week I will be doing kitchen duty and recently reviewed my candy recipes and decided to pass on some of my favorite recipes in this week’s column.
First let me give you a few tips that will simplify your candy-making session. These candy recipes are really quite easy but I will tell you that you really need to use a candy thermometer if you want them to come out the same each time you make them.
Candy is not hard to make, it just takes some precise cooking and this is made simpler with the use of a candy thermometer.
The most important thing to remember when making candy is to follow the directions to the letter. Read the entire recipe before starting so you know what will be expected during the process.
You must only stir candy as per the recipe because some will turn grainy or hard with too much stirring. Another hint is that if a recipe calls for BUTTER, then it means butter — don’t substitute margarine or “light butter.”
Candy is something that you just can’t change ingredients. Keeping the burner at the desired temperature will avoid over stirring, also.
For you novice candy makers, you may be unfamiliar with the terms soft ball, hard ball or hard crack. This simply means the condition of the cooked ingredients when dropped in cold water.
Many years ago, candy thermometers were not commonly found in the kitchen and testing the cooked candy in cold water was the only way to determine if it was properly cooked. Your candy thermometer will have markings on the front that tells you when the ingredients are at the right stage of cooking.
The first candy recipe I am passing on today is for “Butter Caramels” and is one that my mother made when I was living at home. Those of you who knew my mother will remember these wonderful chewy delights. Every Christmas we would make and wrap these as a family.
When my brother was in Vietnam, she made them and shipped them to him. The second is another of her candies and is for “Toffee Butter Crunch”. The third recipe is for “Pecan Log” which does not have to be cooked, so those of you who don’t trust you cooking talents can give it a try.
MOTHER’S BUTTER CARAMELS
2 C. sugar
1 C. dark Karo
1C. Heavy Whipping Cream
½ C. Butter (cut into 5 pieces)-Don’t use margarine!
1 t. vanilla
Stir together sugar and Karo. Gradually add cream. Place in large heavy saucepan and cook until firm ball (120 degrees on thermometer). Quickly add chunks of butter and cook for exactly 5 minutes more. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and quickly pour onto buttered pan (10” x 15” approx.). Cool until firm. Cut into 1” squares and wrap in waxed paper.
TOFFEE BUTTER CRUNCH
1 C. Butter
1 C. Sugar
3 T. Water
1 T. White or Dark Karo
¾ – 1C. Finely Chopped Almonds (toasted)
1 C. chocolate chips
¼ C. Finely Chopped Almonds (toasted), optional
Line a 10×15” cookie sheet with foil extending over the edges of the pan. Butter the sides of a 2 Qt. heavy saucepan. In saucepan, melt butter; add sugar, water and Karo. Cook and stir over medium high heat until mixture begins to boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a steady rate, stirring frequently until the temperature registers 290 degrees. (Watch carefully when temperature reaches 280 degrees as candy cooks fast and may scorch). Remove pan from heat and quickly stir in ¾ C. nuts and then pour onto prepared pan spreading to edges of pan.
Let candy stand about 2 minutes or until set. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and wait 5 minutes more. Spread chocolate over toffee and top with the remaining ¼ C. chopped nuts. Chill for 20 minutes and then lift foil and candy from pan. Cool completely. Carefully break candy into pieces and store in covered container.
NOTE: I frequently make this toffee without the chocolate and it is excellent. If you are planning on mailing this candy, I recommend that you do not use the chocolate coating.
7 oz. Marshmallow Cream
1 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract (or additional vanilla)
1 # Confectionery Sugar
1 # Kraft Caramels
1 t. cream
1 # chopped pecans (medium course)
With a mixer, combine marshmallow, flavorings and sugar until well blended (mixture will be stiff). With buttered hands, divide and shape mixture into 2 log shaped pieces about 1 ½” to 2” in diameter. Place in Plastic wrap and freeze until firm. When logs have frozen, melt caramels and milk and pour into glass pie plate. Let cool until still runny and warm but not hot. Roll logs in caramel and then into chopped pecans. Press in nuts until well covered. Rewrap in fresh plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator. When ready to use, slice in ½” slices.
Until next week … Sheryl.
Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column Welcome to My Kitchen out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at email@example.com.