I survived my first at-home candy-making adventure, and I am here to tell the tale. Well, there isn’t much of a tale, really. To be brief: I made salted caramels and peppermint bark. Both of them came out pretty well, but not ideal. Here’s the scoop:
I was most excited about making the caramel because I’d tried some made by a friend of a friend at a party recently and hers were absolutely out of this world. I knew I’d be unlikely to make them that well on the first try, but I figured even 50% as good would be fine. So I followed the recipe she used (this one plus spices like ginger, cinnamon, and allspice, to taste, added along with the vanilla) and I referred to Katie’s tips on foodlush. I was worried about the caramel coming out too hard, like Katie’s did, so I took it off the heat at 245 instead of 248. In retrospect, I could have gone up to 248 — these came out a smidge too soft for my taste, but if stored in the fridge they’re just great. I’ll declare it a success! Onward to more caramel greatness!
Oh, except that I broke my brand new candy thermometer after just one use. Carelessly tossing things into the sink was not such a great idea. At least I can replace it for only $4.
[Time out for a second, y’all: the wind outside right now is howling. I mean, it is HOWLING. Eerily, loudly, surprisingly. It’s whistling through the trees on the lake and rocketing through the breezeways of my apartment complex. My dog wholeheartedly disapproves. Dear weather, try this sometime on Halloween, not Christmastime.]
Moving on, as long as I don’t get blown away: peppermint bark. This shit is The Business. It tastes fantastic and was very easy to do. I basically winged it after looking at several recipes, and it came out fine. I only have one mistake I had to learn from. Here’s what I did, and won’t do again:
- Melt 8oz (two bars) of semi-sweet or dark baking chocolate. Most recipes tell you to use a double boiler, but I don’t have such a thing, so I used the microwave on medium-low. Easy. Stir in 1/4 tsp peppermint extract, then spread it into a 9×9 pan lined with parchment paper.
- And then DO NOT: Sprinkle on crushed candy canes or other peppermint candy. I’ll explain why not to do this later.
- Then repeat the melting, peppermintizing, and spreading procedure with 8oz white baking chocolate.
- And then DO: sprinkle on crushed candy canes or other peppermint candy.
- Chill until firm, remove from pan, break up, serve, love, etc.
Here’s why I wish I hadn’t put the layer of crushed candy canes in between the dark and white chocolate: it completely ruined the structural integrity of the layers. When I go to break or cut off a piece to eat, the dark and white layers often separate. One great thing about layered peppermint bark should be the combination of different chocolate varieties — I don’t want to eat them separately, and I don’t want little layers breaking off like shale every time I try to get a piece. So, next time, I’ll only sprinkle the candy canes on top, at the very end.
And there you go. All packaged up nice and festive-like. (This lighting situation at home is untenable. Sorry for the terrible photos.)
I mailed one box of each up to my family in Tennessee, whom I won’t be seeing over the holiday, and I’m taking one box of each up to Iowa for my boyfriend’s family. I hope they like it! He warned me they “aren’t peppermint people,” but that can’t possibly be right. Maybe he isn’t a peppermint person, but surely an entire family wouldn’t shun one of the greatest seasonal flavors of all time, right? RIGHT?
Okay then. I am all packed up and ready to hit the road tomorrow at the wee hour of six o’clock. Oh boy. With the howling winds down here and the blizzard up there tonight, I am just hoping that things calm down for our drive. Either way, I am more than ready to enjoy some genuine snow for the next week!
I probably won’t update here while I’m gone, but I may be on Twitter/Flickr a bit. We’ll see. At any rate, let me take a second to wish all of you who celebrate it a merry Christmas, and to everyone a very happy New Year! Take care.