Today is the day I started holiday baking and candy making. I love delivering homemade gifts for the holidays. I've already made preserves, salsa, walnut wine and fruit liqueurs. By the time Christmas comes, I'll have candies and cookies to create the ultimate gift basket.
I have about two dozen different confections I've made for the last few years. I know it takes about ten days to get everything made, so I make all the candies first, as they have a longer shelf life, and require wrapping individually – an activity I am willing to do now, but hate doing later on in the holiday-baking-palooza.
I started by making peppermint patties, using a wonderful recipe from Gourmet, December, 2007. I’ll be sending this post on to Gourmet, Unbound – a project put together by some of my favorite food bloggers - to honor, recollect, and mourn the passing of our beloved Gourmet magazine.
I made these little candies last year and they were a huge hit. However, I made the mistake of wrapping them in red and green foil wrappers and everyone thought they were York peppermint patties. This year, I found pale blue foil wrappers and I think they look very festive. And homemade.
I’ve worked with this recipe before. I’ve made some changes - exchanging butter for shortening. I've tried honey in place of corn syrup, and even tried to make a simple syrup to see if that would work, but the texture was wrong in both cases, so in this case, there is some corn syrup.
These are great candies - very easy, and very tasty - with great potential for adaptation. If you don’t like peppermint, for instance, just use raspberry or coffee or lemon or vanilla extract. Even liqueurs would make a tasty filling (but cut back the water if using booze.)
adapted from Gourmet, December 2007
2.5 c confectioners sugar
1.5 Tbls light corn syrup
1.5 Tbls water
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 T butter, cut in small pieces
6-8 oz bittersweet chocolate, over 70% cacao
First, mix the powdered sugar, butter, water, extract and corn syrup in the mixer until combined.
Finish the mixing by kneading the filling until it's smooth. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar on both sides and place between two pieces of parchment paper.
I like to use my very fun marble rolling pin because it fits perfectly across the sheet pan. When the filling is evenly rolled out to about 1/4" thick, put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Once the filling is very, very cold, cut out the rounds. I use the large end of a pastry bag tip - it's the right size! You want the fillings to be about 1" across. I've also made heart shapes for Valentines Day. And I tried a square cutter once, but the edges blurred when dipped in chocolate. Sometimes the cut-outs split or chip - just smoosh 'em back together. No one will know when it's covered in chocolate!
They really do have to be sort of thick. Or else they melt in the chocolate. You might wonder how I know that.
Now, pop those circles in the freezer for 30 minutes. Knead the trimmings and re-roll and re-freeze.
While the fillings are freezing, melt the chocolate and then temper it.
Here's how I temper chocolate. I start with 6 oz. of chocolate in the double boiler. Melt thoroughly. Take the chocolate off the heat and stir in 2 oz of chopped up chocolate. Keep stirring to mix in the new chocolate, which will reduce the temperature of the melted chocolate. Keep stirring and you'll notice the chocolate starting to firm up again. About halfway between totally melted and all firmed up is tempered. I test it by speading a small amount on some parchment paper. If it hardens up quickly, and snaps when broken, it's ready. When it comes to tempering, practice really does make perfect.
I use a very handy chocolate fork, but you can also use a regular fork. The most important thing - the fillings must be Ice Cold. If they start to warm up, pop them back in the freezer.
The ones on the left look pretty good. Then the chocolate got too cool, and the ones in the middle got a little goopy on top. Once wrapped, it won't really matter. I would like them to all be perfect, but I am working on my need for perfection. Really. (Hey, I photographed the imperfect ones, didn't I?)
Once I finished the peppermint patties, I made some fleur de sel caramels. Here they are in the pan. I'm letting them set up overnight before cutting and wrapping them.
I'll check in again tomorrow with more recipes and fun on the way to Christmas.
Ho Ho Ho