candy

Hard Candy Christmas, Making Old Fashioned Hard Candy

 

One of our family Christmas traditions since my husband was a small boy was making home-made hard candy to share with the friends and family. So this year I wanted to share the tradition with my Daughter-in-Law so that she could make the candy with my granddaughter when she gets just a little older. I also though we could use silicone molds that I bought several years ago to make the candy into fun holiday shapes.Then YouTube took the whole candy making for kids (and some adults) to a whole new cool level. I watched the attached video and had to add these wonderful Lego molds to my collection and start making Christopher’s favorite flavor of candy.

Close up of hard candy Lego men with powdered sugar

Close up of hard candy Lego men with powdered sugar

Lego silicone molds with hard candy cooling

Lego silicone molds with hard candy cooling

Candy flavoring comes in small bottles of oils that can be used for making almost anything that you eat with out the use of alcohols that are in most extracts. The flavor and color are concentrated in each bottle. So for every batch of candy you need one bottle of your favorite flavoring. I made a total of 5 different flavors this year, root beer, apple, orange, cinnamon, and butter scotch. Each batch is about 1/2 of a pound of finished candy and that is every mold you see above filled to at least half. I did reduce the amount of syrup in the heart molds to half full because they were very hard to remove and to big to pop in your mouth.

Candy and Baking flavoring bottles two pack

Candy and Baking flavoring bottles two pack

Then after pulling the candy from the molds it is wise to dust them with powered sugar so that they will not stick together and this is really important if you want to mix the flavors into gift bags. They will not store for long in high humidity without it.

Hard Candy ready to be sent out as gifts

Hard Candy ready  …This Bag is mine !

So here are the very easy to fallow directions on how to make hard candy and the way to test your sugar syrup with out a candy thermometer…Each box of flavoring comes with a recipe booklet for several things you may want to use this flavoring for. The hard candy recipe is also on the back of the box.

Hard Candy regular Batch

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup water

1 dram or teaspoon flavoring

food coloring or gel… gel does not seem to burn at these high temperatures.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 2 quart saucepan. I use my cast iron dutch oven. Stir over med heat until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring. When syrup reaches 260 degrees F. add coloring. Do not stir ;boiling action will blend color for you. Remove from heat at 300 deg F. When drops of syrup form a hard brittle threads in cold water ( Hard Ball stage). When boiling action stops, stir in flavoring. Pour syrup into lightly oiled candy molds or on a greased cookie sheet. When cool break into pieces and dust with powered sugar to prevent sticking. Store in an air tight container or Ziplock bag.

This is what the process looks like

sugar, corn syrup and water beginning to boild

sugar, corn syrup and water beginning to boil. It takes about 6 or 8 minutes for the first stage of the sugar to boil

After the sugar reaches a rolling boil I added my gel food coloring of red in this batch… I think I used about three little drops to get a nice light red color.

Soon to be cinnamon hard candy with red food color

Soon cinnamon hard candy with red food color

Now the wait is on. I raise my burner heat at this point to med high or about 8 this decreases the amount of time it takes the sugar to reach the crack stage. The syrup will go from what looks like water boiling to a foamy tinny bubble stage as it heats then finally when you reach about 300 degrees the syrup will have large clear thick bubbles all the way to the edge of the kettle. This process takes about 10 minutes if you do not stir the syrup, longer if you can not resist the urge to stir.

When you think you are close to the correct temperature, or any time you are nosy, you can check the stages of the sugar with a cold water test. Fill a clear glass over half way full of cold water. With a non plastic spoon, preferable a wooden one, drip a small amount of syrup into the cold water…. DO NOT GET THE SYRUP ON YOUR SKIN IT IS VERY HOT AND STICKY! Burns will happen and skin will be lost when the sugar sets up. If the syrup looks like this it is not ready yet.

Cold water test for hard candy soft ball stage not ready yet

Cold water test for hard candy soft ball stage not ready yet.

wait a while longer and test again. When the syrup is ready is will almost instantly get hard… threads of what looks like glass will appear on the glass, in the water, on the counter… just about every where.

Remove kettle from stove and let the sugar cool until the boiling stops add flavorings and stir. It may pop and hiss a little when you add the flavorings but should not burn. Then pour carefully into molds or a cookie sheet for breaking up later. I did not spray any of my molds and the released fine… if working on a cookie sheet of metal I would spray with a cooking spray.

silicon baking molds used to make hard candy

silicon baking molds used to make hard candy.

You can see the sugar threads here between each tray. Let the trays cool for several minutes I left these for about 30 minutes. Then remove and dust with powered sugar.

Tray of Hard Candy after dunking them in powdered sugar

Tray of Hard Candy after dunking them in powdered sugar

We rub off the excess sugar and put in a Zip Lock bag. Then after every flavor has cooled I take handfuls of the different candy shapes and flavors and fill small treat bags. Each bag had at least one huge decorative candy in the bag and about 15 smaller pieces. The Snow Men and Large Lego man were my favorite to add to each bag. I understand that they are too big to fit in you mouth but they look great when arranged in the window of the gift bag. They can still be eaten but would need broken into smaller pieces.

So after about 2 hours my Daughter-in-law and I finished up started to clean up my sugar covered table and finally  tasted our hard work. It all tasted great and my favorite is always cinnamon. The joy of making this candy is it is great for parties at Halloween you could make grape purple bats, or orange pumpkins, at Valentines day make red cinnamon hearts, At Easter make pink or yellow eggs and share them. Use the large pieces as edible cupcake topper or cake decorations. The ideas are limitless and if you want you can also make the Gummies that are in the video  below… so Silicon Molds are some of my favorite kitchen gadgets and always spark my creativity.

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Categories: candy, childhood memories, Christmas, Holidays | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

If Martha Stewart had an ADHDD sister.

If Martha Stewart had a ADHDD sister I would be her.I love the holidays it gives me a reason to cook, bake and decorate. I at one time was a professional interior decorator. I worked for J.C. Penny’s custom decorating and I worked with a furniture store doing whole homes of furniture and accessories. So I get into the holidays deep, really deep, baking, candy making, making decorations and trimming trees (this year only three). Yet, as a house wife I don’t have the staff of professionals that people like Martha Stewart does to help me. So what most people do in a weekend I spend all month working on and in the process I make a huge mess. I dream of  someone to clean up every thing for me, maybe a hansom older man to do dishes, a young one to climb the ladder for the roof lights, and a nice granny kinda woman to clean while I decorate the tree. I just wish that I was not so caught up in my disorder ADHDD ( Attention Deficit Holiday Decorating Disorder) that I could say stop all on my own. But  my family all know that the only thing that ends my ADHDD binge is the date Dec 31st. New Years Eve sends shivers down my spine because it is the next day that I start to clean it all back up.

Blue and Silver Christmas tree 2015

Blue and Silver Christmas tree 2015

I feel like the bad sister that Martha would never talks about.  You know the one who suffers from over decorating and over baking. That family member who has a couple of rooms in the house totally covered in exploding  holiday decorations. The one that has two sinks over flowing with pots and pans because on a whim I needed to make candy for the entire 1 st grade class. The one who is making a mad dash to Wal-Mart at 10  pm to get spray paint because you forgot the it 4 times this week. The one who puts more lights on the pre-lighted tree because it is just toooo plain with out blue lights too. The one who has to color coordinate the tree to the curtains and the dinner dishes, you get the picture, right? I have  ADHDD so bad that I can never really finish one project before the next one needs attention. I am usually doing several things at once.

mess of unpacked decorations

mess of unpacked decorations

So this being our first Christmas in the new to us house, I have begun to get things out of the boxes and totes.I  am trying desperately to get a grip on this ADHDD thing and not go over board. I have so much I want to decorate now that we live in town. I never really did much outside before because we lived on a farm.The only people who would really enjoy it were my own kids and making them happy was easy. Now we have neighbors, and  they have begun to decorate outside, leaving me feeling behind in the decorating game. I can’t blame them, the weather was perfect last weekend and I wish I had spent some time trying to make things look festive but in the end we spent time with family instead. It was great too and I hope to write about it soon.

So as I write this I am just finishing up a batch of old fashion hard tack candy and bagging it up. Then putting up stockings and putting out my sons train under a tree. Holiday music is blasting and I cry every darn time I hear someone sing “Mary did You Know?” … something about Mary kissing  little Jesus’s face….. gets me every time.

Sugar covered table and Old Fashioned Hard Tack Candy

Sugar covered table and Old Fashioned Hard Tack Candy

I have three strings of out-door lights that need hung and an inflatable snoopy that needs placed in the yard. I have holiday cards to send out and three holiday parties to attend. I have groceries still to by and two wreaths to make. The silly thing is that in all of this mass of confusion, I am happy, more happy than I have been in years.The ADHDD has kicked in and I will be holiday buzzing for the next month.Maybe it is all the cookies and candy or the extra caffeine but I am feeling grand.

Christophers tree that needs help to finish and a table of trains

Christopher’s tree that needs help to finish and a table of trains

Then as if I did not know it was coming, it will be over, the holidays will end and I have to put it all back. New Years day will come with its lingering effects of staying up to late will make me tired and grumpy. Tom and I will sleep in and  little Christopher will crawl into our bed to snuggle as we say “Happy New Year” to each other. I will be sad, lingering under the covers to long, knowing that a the New Year has begone. I will worry about where to put everything that has arrived at our door over Christmas. I will drink a strong cup of tea in my P.J’s and start the long, slow process of undoing all my hard work in a matter of a day or two. I will miss the blue and white lights, the smell of cinnamon, and the taste of home-made cookies. I will carefully pack away each ornament and place the tree carefully back in its box. I will dust and vacuum up the silver glitter off the floor. The plates of cookies and candy will get tossed out. I will known in my sad heart that my disorder is restrained again for another year. Secretly, I think about my “New Year Resolution”. It will not have anything to do with weight or being more loving, but about taking it easy on the decorating next year. Praying that next holiday season my house will look perfect from beginning to end and Martha Stewart will stop by and be pleased with what I have done. That maybe she will share in my story of ADHDD and secretly nod to me her understanding.. because once many years ago she was a  decorating nut-bucket just like me.

Categories: About me, candy, Christmas, Home Decor, New Years Eve | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bourbon Balls made with Markers Mark bourbon a Kentucky wonder

I had hoped to post this over the holidays but things just got to busy and some how I just did find time to get this rewritten and ready for all of you.

Photo of the bourbon Balls sold through the Makers Mark web site

Photo of the bourbon Balls sold through the Makers Mark website

While visiting the Makers Mark distillery  we were all given one of the best candies that I have ever eaten. They looked like this and we each where give one at the end of our tour. I longed to send these to some of my friends as gifts and maybe keep some for myself but I just could not afford to. As wonderful as these are I thought with a little effort and time I could find a recipe that was close to the fantastic candy we had on our trips to Kentucky and make them at a price that I could afford to send them to friends and family all across the country and introduce more people to the world of cooking with bourbon.

I found a recipe at the following website  www.herkentucky.com and started with it and tweaked it a little to make the recipe even easier to make.

The day before you want to make the balls  you should soak  one cup of chopped pecans  in 1/2 cup bourbon over night covered in the refrigerator. This is what you will need to make about 40 walnut sized candies.

  • 1/2 cup of good quality bourbon, I like Makers Mark
  • 1 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • 1 pounds of powered sugar
  • 1 stick of real cream butter, softened
  • 1 bag 16 oz. of dark chocolate chips …. I used Hershey’s Special Dark
  • 1 half bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
walnut size bourbon balls before covering

walnut size bourbon balls before covering

  1. Place 1 cup chopped pecans into food processor and chop fine.
  2. Place fine chopped nuts into a bowl with 1/2 cup bourbon and let soak over night.
  3. Cream butter in large bowl, adding bourbon soaked pecans. Combine pecan, butter mixture with powdered sugar to form a stiff batter.You may need to add up to 1/2 cup water to thin mixture. Stiff enough to form a nice ball. Refrigerate to let stiffen the mixture about 2 hours or the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll dough into walnut size balls.
  5. Place on wax paper on cookie sheet and place in freezer for about 30 minutes.
  6. While balls are chilling place about 1/2 bag of dark chips and 1/4 bag semi sweet chips into a microwave safe bowl. The smaller the bowl the easier it is to dip the and coat the balls. Heat chocolate for about 2 minutes stirring at about 1 minutes to insure that the chocolate melts evenly.
  7. Using two teaspoons drop one ball at a time into chocolate and cover, use other spoon help let the extra chocolate drip back into the bowl. place on clean wax paper to cool. Add more chocolate as needed and warm when the chocolate gets to thick to smoothly cover balls.

    covering the bourbon balls with the chocolate coating

    covering the bourbon balls with the chocolate coating

  8. Top with half of a pecan and let cool. We chose to use dark chocolate because the ones you get at the distillery are a pure dark chocolate but not a bitter chocolate.

    cooling bourbon balls with  pecan toping

    cooling bourbon balls with pecan topping

We let the candy cool over night before eating and by then the chocolate had hardened and the flavors had time to meld together. They were excellent and we got about 40 balls from this recipe at about 8 dollars for everything but the bourbon. This was a savings of about 10 dollars a dozen.  So I was able to share them with lots of family and friends. Enjoy!

Maker Mark distillery sign with kids

Maker Mark distillery sign with kids

Categories: candy, Chocolate, Kentucky, Maker's Mark | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Building Memories, Gingerbread House

    One of my favorite things about having kids is doing things together that they will remember when they are old and gray. I try to spend time with my sons doing creative things that we will both like to do too.

christopher building ginger bread house

Christopher building gingerbread house

   This seems to always involve food or building something so we finally found a  way to combine the two, gingerbread houses. I am now hooked and will be looking at other houses for ideas. We cheated this year with a kit house and some stale candy from Halloween. I learned tons and am thinking of already making another one from scratch.

The two houses my friends Jacquelyn has written about her Blog  http://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/one-sweet-forecast/ made a real impression on me and I hope to get an idea as nice as her “Dance Studio” house for the kids to build in the future. I am sure that I would end up dragging Tom into it also… He could draw out the plans on butcher paper and I would cook the cookies and make the icing.

My older son suggested that we make a barn and I am thinking that would be great if I can maybe make it with animal crackers we decorate or find some cookie cutters in animal shapes… the ideas go on and on.

But in the end it was all about making memories with my son and having fun on his Thanksgiving break and spending family time together.

small ginger bread house

small ginger bread house

Then after all the fun is over mom still gets to clean up the mess.

mess left after decorating ginger bread house

mess left after decorating ginger bread house

Sharing this with Thursday favorite things at Katherine’s Corner.com

Categories: cakes and family deserts, candy, Christopher, cooking, gingerbread, Holidays | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Kids Getting to Much Easter Candy? How to use it up.

Easter bunny candy

Easter bunny candy photo credit to www.health.com

      One of my Pet Peeves in this life is people giving my children candy all the time. I even dislike getting candy from stores,banks and even Grandma. I know this makes me the “MEAN” mom… The one who says no to a lot of free junk food, but I feel it is my job to watch out for my family and their teeth. I come from a family with genetically soft teeth. We don’t get cancer or strokes, we just suffer from cavities on huge scale. Even with proper dental care my siblings and children just have more overall oral health problems then most. 

    When Easter rolls around I cringe at the thought of all those chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Peeps. I have over the years tossed out thousands of dollars of candy given to my two sons as gifts. This year was unusually bad when it came to chocolate.  My younger son received around 3 pounds of chocolate in the form of bunnies, crosses and M&Ms. This does not include the Ring Pops,Gummy Bears, the malted eggs or Peeps found in his baskets. People, theirs a limit to how much candy a four-year old should eat.

    So after receiving  all that chocolate, I just started freezing it. I knew that at some point it could be used later. This Mothers Day seemed like a good time use up some of my hidden stash. Christopher and I made chocolate chunk cookies for the holiday and with the help of 6 adults and 2 kids we all enjoyed the chocolate.

                                                           I have named these cookies  “Easter Chunk Cookies”.

cooling Easter Chunk Cookies

cooling Easter Chunk Cookies

  

My recipe comes from the “Better Homes and Gardens” New Cook Book of 1981 and 1992 publication, page# 128. Gather all the ingredients and begin to warm the chocolate if frozen.

everything except chocolet

everything except chocolate

.

 I have to admit that I make cookies all in one bowl just like my mother, so my photos of the process may appear backward to what is the “Correct” way to add ingredients to the mix. Mom,I make them just the way that you taught me.

creamed sugar butter and adding eggs

creamed sugar butter and adding eggs

 

    Frist into the bowl is butter and shortening at room temp, then the white and brown sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy. I then add eggs and vanilla and salt cream them into butter mixture. I then add 1 cup of flour and mix, then baking soda  and then the rest of flour and mix well . Then I add the chocolate, nuts and candy.

chopping up chocolet

chopping up chocolate

chopped up Easter candy and mini M&Ms

As you can see above the chocolate Crosses are thin and even with three they only produced about a cup of chunks. So, I added more left over candy, in this case mini M&Ms from Christmas.  The two together made about a 1  1/2 cups of chocolate and then added a cup of chopped nuts to the batter. 

everything combined and ready to drop on cookie sheet

everything combined and ready to drop on cookie sheet

I dropped a tablespoon of mixture on a cookie sheet and baked them at 375, for about 10 minutes about 2 inches apart. The dough is soft and chewy in the middle but crispy and lightly brown on the bottom. We ended up with about 2 1/2 dozen cookies and I spent nothing for any of the chocolate and that saved me about 4 dollars on one batch.

I still have about 1 and 1/2 pounds of left over chocolate in the freezer and a huge bag of jellybeans. So more ideas to  come.

Here is the ingredients  for my “Easter Chunk Cookies”.

2 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup Crisco shortening

1  cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks and or colored mini M&Ms

1 cup chopped nuts.

I hope that the next Easter candy recipe that I post is for Jelly Beans and what to do with 2 pounds of them. Maybe by July, I will have used most of them up and shared them a  company picnic or some other large group gathering.

Categories: candy, Chocolate, Easter, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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