Years and years ago, I was a lot more brazen about trying Christmas candy recipes than I am nowadays. I made fondant from scratch, back in the day, and one year when our friend Roger (who was also Kelly’s godfather) had a craving for maple creams that he remembered from his childhood, we made maple creams. He even created a dipping tool for me to use to dip the maple creams into melted fondant as a final touch.
What didn’t we make? There was a recipe called Five Pounds of Fudge and Creamy Nut Toffee, Aunt Annie’s Cream Candy, and Stuffed Apricots, Chocolate Truffles, and Becky’s Buckeye Balls, and one of my ever-so-favorite Pecan Pralines, a recipe given to me by my penpal in Louisiana years ago. I used to make Fiddle Faddle (a candied popcorn recipe) just because my girlfriend Rosalia’s son Marty liked it, and a Taffy Nut Crunch that I made because I liked it. There was Mamie Eisenhower’s Fudge and my penpal Penny’s Real Good Fudge.
Well, I don’t make so many of these anymore. You may know that my lifestyle changed drastically 4 years ago when we moved to the high desert, and again a year ago when my partner of 26 years passed away. I’m sixty five miles away from many former co-workers and friends with whom we always shared the homemade cookies and candies. One good thing about the high desert, though, is that it’s even dryer here than it is in the San Fernando valley – and most candy recipes really need a low-humidity day (especially recipes like divinity)
I don’t have a lot of candy cookbooks (although there are candy and confection recipes in a lot of the Christmas cookbooks). One of my treasures is THE HOLIDAY CANDY BOOK by Virginia Pasley (the same Virginia Pasley who wrote the 1949 Christmas Cookie Book). The HOLIDAY CANDY BOOK was published in 1952 and my copy is a Burbank, California, officially discarded book.
I have CANDY RECIPES & OTHER CONFECTIONS by May Van Arsdale and Ruth Parrish Casa Emellos, published in 1941 and Antoinette Pope School Candy Book by Antoinette and Francois Pope, published in 1949—and my piece de resistance, CANDY HITS BY ZASU PITTS who was, in case you don’t recognize the name, a beloved comedienne of motion pictures, stage and television for many years. She was a young girl when she first played opposite Mary Pickford—but she was also famous on the studio lot for her fudge! This book was published in 1963. But most of these cookbooks have a similar theme, I think – the recipes for fondants, caramels, hard candies, nougats, brittles, and taffy can pretty much be found in all of them.
So what I would like to do, today, is share some of my favorite candy recipes with you. These are from my personal files and the source of most of them has been lost along the way unless I mention the recipe’s contributor by name.
FIVE POUNDS OF FUDGE
To make Five Pounds of Fudge, you will need:
2 packages (12 ounce each) chocolate chips (I prefer Nestle’s Toll House semi sweet morsels but any kind will do)
1 jar (7 ½ ounce) marshmallow crème
1 can (12 ounce) evaporated milk
4 ½ cups of granulated sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
Put first three ingredients in a large bowl (not a plastic bowl – use glass or ceramic). Lightly butter a 15x10x1” pan or several small aluminum pans (or line the 15x10x1” pan with foil, then butter it). In a large deep pan, mix the evaporated milk and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly, stirring constantly, for exactly 9 minutes. Pour over other ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Beat with mixer just until well mixed or if you have strong arm, mix it with your wooden spoon. Then stir in vanilla and nuts. Spread evenly in prepared pans. Chill 12 to 24 hours. Cut into squares. Store airtight or with foil if giving in small aluminum pans.
CREAMY NUT TOFFEE
To make Creamy Nut Toffee you will need:
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ cup water
½ cup (1 stick) butter
12 oz chocolate chips
½ to 1 cup of finely chopped walnuts
Combine 1 cup sugar, ½ tsp salt, ¼ cup water and 1 stick of butter in a large stainless steel pot. Cook to light crack stage (285 degrees on candy thermometer). Pour on well buttered foil-lined cookie sheet. Cool. Melt 12 ounces of chocolate chips. Spread half on candy; sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts. Turn over the candy and repeat with remaining chocolate and nuts. When cool, break into small pieces.
AUNT ANNIE’S CREAM CANDY (Aunt Annie was my father’s only sister).
To make Aunt Annie’s Cream Candy you will need
2 pounds of powdered sugar
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Beat together al l ingredients. Form into balls and set on cookie sheet overnight (this should form a crust). Next day, dip into melted chocolate. Aunt Annie says she covers just half when dipping into dark chocolate so they look like buckeyes. Very rich. Candy is similar to Opera Creams.
TO MAKE STUFFED APRICOTS YOU WILL NEED:
¼ CUP BUTTER
1 EGG WHITE
½ TSP VANILLA EXTRACT
1/8 TSP SALT
1 LB POWDERED SUGAR
1/3 CUP FINELY CHOPPED WALNUTS
1-2 TSP MILK, IF NECESSASRY
8 OUNCES DRIED APRICOTS
In a small skillet, melt ¼ cup butter until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Pour into a bowl and cool. Stir in 1 egg white, ½ tsp vanilla and 1/8 tsp salt, and mix well. Then stir in 1 lb powdered sugar and 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts. When mixture becomes stiff, knead til well mixed, adding 1-2 tsp milk if necessary, til stiff but not crumbly. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Flatten apricots (8 ounces). Shape 1 tsp fondant on each apricot and wrap the apricot around fondant. Store in a single layer in tightly covered container. Keep very dry.
TO MAKE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES YOU WILL NEED:
1 12-OUNCE package semi sweet chocolate morsels
¾ cup Borden’s sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated!)
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of salt
¾ cup pistachios, chopped
Melt chips in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling water. Remove from heat and add condensed milk, vanilla and salt and mix well. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, or until easy to handle. Shape into balls and roll ball sin nuts (or omit nuts and roll in Dutch unsweetened cocoa). Keep in tightly covered container.
STEPHANIE’S BUCKEYE BALLS
TO MAKE STEPHANIE’S BUCKEYE BALLS YOU WILL NEED:
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 lb powdered sugar (about)
1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter
1 12-oz pkg semi sweet chocolate pieces
1 TBSP shortening (such as Crisco)
Cream softened butter, powdered sugar and peanut butter with your hands. Should be a firm consistency. Roll into balls. Place balls on cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Place in refrigerator about 45 minutes or until firm. Melt chocolate pieces with shortening over low heat. Dip balls into chocolate with toothpicks, almost to the top to give the appearance of a buckeye. You can also use your finger to smooth out the hole from the toothpick. Then refrigerate until firm. Keep stored in the refrigerator. (*You can double or triple this recipe to make a large batch. I have a chocolate melting pot that is perfect for melting chocolate and dipping the candies into it. If you don’t have one of these, suggest you melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling water. If you get the chocolate too hot, it will “freeze” up and be useless).
AUNT BECKY’S BUCKEYE BALLS (a slightly different recipe)
To make Aunt Becky’s Buckeye Balls you will need:
½ pound margarine (solid stick) or butter
1 lb peanut butter
1 ¼ lbs powdered sugar (5 cups)
Use at room temp. Mix ingredients and shape into small balls. Chill. Melt 12 oz chocolate with ¼ of a bar of paraffin. Coat each ball. Place on wax paper.
GENE’S CREAM PRALINES
To make Gene’s Cream Pralines you will need:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups pecan halves
Butter 2 large cookie sheets*
Cook sugar and milk over medium heat stirring constantly until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees. Remove from heat and add vanilla and pecans; stir until creamy. Drop by tablespoon to cookie sheets. If candy becomes too stiff add a small amount of cold water.
*I prefer to spoon the candy into holiday cupcake liners. This is a great recipe from my penpal Gene Chenore in Louisiana.
To make fiddle faddle you will need:
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
½ cup flaked coconut
¼ cup butter
1 TBSP baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
4 quarts popped corn (keep warm in low oven. Can add almonds and peanuts). Put ½ cup water and first two ingredients in heavy pan; cook, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover 5 minutes to dissolve any sugar crystals. Put in candy thermometer and cook without stirring to 300 degrees. Remove from heat and add butter. Mix baking soda and vanilla together and add to mixture, stirring well. Pour at once over corn, stir or toss with fork to distribute. Pour on greased cookie sheets and let cool.
TAFFY NUT CRUNCH
To make Taffy Nut Crunch you will need:
1 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 TBSP butter
¼ tsp baking soda
2 ¾ cups chopped nuts, divided
½ cup chocolate chips
Put first 3 ingredients in a large pot. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Then cook over medium heat to 270 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and half of the nuts. Pour into a 13X9” heavily greased pan and quickly spread. Sprinkle on chocolate chips and left soften. Then spread the chocolate and sprinkle on remaining nuts. Cut into squares when slightly cool. Makes 2 pounds candy.
MAMIE EISENHOWER’S FUDGE
To make Mamie Eisenhower’s Fudge you will need:
4 ½ cups sugar
2 TBSP butter
1 large can evaporated m ilk
12 oz chocolate chips
3 (4 oz each) packages of sweet cooking chocolate
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
Combine sugar, butter and evaporated milk in large pot. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 6 minutes. Combine chocolate, marshmallow cream and nuts in large mixing bowl. Pour hot mixture over chocolate and beat til chocolate is melted. Pour into well greased pans and cool several hours or until firm. Store in air tight containers.
PENNY’S REAL GOOD FUDGE
To make Penny’s Read Good Fudge
1 lb Hershey bars
12 oz chocolate chips
2 cups chopped nuts
1 pint jar marshmallow cream
4 ½ cups sugar
3 TBSP butter
1 large can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
Cut chocolate bars into small pieces. In large bowl*, combine cut up chocolate bars, chips, nuts and marshmallows. In large pan, mix milk, sugar and butter. Boil 5 minutes stirring constantly. Pour into bowl of candy bars and stir until dissolved. Pour into greased pans and cool. Makes 5 lbs.
*Suggest you don’t use a plastic bowl for this.
MY FAVORITE CARAMEL CORN
To make my favorite caramel corn, you will need
14 cups of popped corn (3 packages of microwave popcorn, popped, is about right
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter
½ cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup salted peanuts, optional
Remove any unpopped kernels and put the popped corn is a large buttered (or pam-sprayed metal container (a speckled roasting pan works well for this) & keep the popcorn warm in a 200 degree oven.
Mix sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then boil without stirring 5 minutes or 255 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add baking soda. It will foam. Pour over popped corn and toss with buttered forks to distribute evenly. Spread on 2 ungreased cookie sheets* and bake @ 200 degrees 1 hour stirring every 5 minutes. Cool completely, break into clusters. Store in tightly covered contained. Makes 3 ½ qts.
*You can add peanuts just before pouring syrup over the popcorn. I don’t bother with the cookie sheet part – when I pour the syrup onto the popcorn, I keep it in the roasting pan and just do a good job of tossing it every 15 minutes. I store the caramel corn in zip lock freezer bags.
HOLIDAY SUGARED WALNUTS
To make the basic recipe you will need:
1 ½ CUPS SUGAR
½ CUP LIQUID* (see variations below)
1 TSP WHITE CORN SYRUP
¼ TSP SALT
Cook above to soft ball stage (236 degrees); remove from heat and add 2-3 cups walnut halves. Stir til creamy. Turn onto foil, separate pieces
*To make ORANGE Sugared Walnuts: ½ cup orange juice, 1½ tsp orange rind To make sherried walnuts: ½ cup sherry, ½ tsp cinnamon To make spiced walnuts, 1/23 cup water and ½ tsp each nutmeg and cloves, and 2 tsp cinnamon To make Mint Walnuts – ½ cup milk, ¾ tsp mint extract, added after cooking
Happy Holiday Baking!