Homemade Candy Corn

I am a big candy corn fan, but don’t tend to eat it because of the ingredients.  While looking for a fun candy recipe to demo this week, I ran across one for homemade candy corn on Serious Eats and couldn’t resist contacting the author to see if I could use her recipe, mostly because the photo of the candy was so darn cute!  It was created by Jessie Oleson Moore, of Cake Spy fame – she is based in Seattle and her blog is awesome if you are into the sweeter side of cooking (like I am!).

I only made one small change to her fabulous recipe – instead of using corn syrup I used organic light agave syrup (I’ll note that we do sell organic corn syrup at our Co-op if you’d prefer to use that).  We also sell some really cool natural food dyes by India Tree – they are made from turmeric, beet and vegetable juice in a glycerin base.

These little candies were super easy to make (you just need a little elbow grease to get the food coloring worked in) and taste so much better than the commercial candy corn on the market…and they are organic (excluding the food coloring).  You don’t even need a candy thermometer!  Customers (and staff) who tried them thought they were very tasty and had a nice caramel-like aftertaste.  I will be making these again for sure!

photo of homemade candy corn in pastel colors

Homemade Candy Corn © 2013 Sassy Sampler

Homemade Candy Corn

recipe adapted from Serious Eats/Cake Spy

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 c organic powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 c organic powdered milk
  • 1 c organic granulated sugar
  • 2/3 c organic light agave syrup
  • 1/3 c organic salted butter
  • 1 t organic vanilla extract
  • Food coloring

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and powdered milk together.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, agave syrup, and butter over high heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add the vanilla and continue stirring frequently for five minutes—the mixture will begin to reduce and thicken.
  4. Remove pan from the heat.  Stir in the powdered sugar/milk mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition until all the dry mixture has been mixed into the wet mixture.
  5. You can either leave the dough in the saucepan or turn it out into a bowl sprinkled with powdered sugar until it is cool enough to be handled.
  6. Divide the dough into as many sections as you’d like to create colored segments for your finished candy, and place them in small separate bowls.  Mix each mound of dough with food coloring until you reach your desired color.  Hint—you may want to wear gloves so your hands don’t get stained, and the longer you wait the harder the dough will be to work with.
  7. On top of a sheet of waxed or parchment paper, roll out each color of dough into a long thin rope.  The thinner the rope, the smaller that segment of color will be in your finished candy.  I divided my dough into three colors and made four 17” ropes of each color (they were about 3/8” thick).
  8. Press together your ropes of dough in whatever color combination you’d like.  To make sure that each segment sticks together, press a second sheet of waxed or parchment paper on top and press with a rolling-pin or your hands.
  9. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough into triangle segments.  Keep a damp, clean cloth on hand to wipe off the knife if it gets sticky.
  10. Let the finished kernels set for an hour or two before serving.

Note from the original recipe author — up the cute quotient by placing a dab of green frosting in the inside of a lid of an empty baby food container and place 2-3 kernels on top, then screw the lid into the jar bottom-side up to create a magical forest of an Easter Corn terrarium.

Homemade Candy Corn PDF

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Keeping with my annual tradition of finding a fun and easy recipe for Valentine’s Day, this week I decided to make one of my husband’s favorite treats – peppermint patties.  I must say, they were a BIG hit when customers sampled them yesterday and I gave out a record number of recipes! 

I found a great recipe on Taste of Home that only used five ingredients – sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, peppermint flavor, chocolate chips, and some shortening (all of which you can buy organic and trans-fat free at the Co-op).  This recipe is fun because you can shape the peppermint dough however you like, something I realized after I had made all my patties for my recipe demo – I’ll pat the dough flat and use a small cookie cutter to shape them as little hearts for the holiday!  It also comes together relatively quickly – it took me about 20 minutes to make the dough and shape the patties, plus chill time, and then it took me about 10-15 minutes to coat them with chocolate, plus chill time.

© Sassy Sampler 2013

© Sassy Sampler 2013

One thing I learned from this recipe is that I will always put a little oil in my chocolate from now on if I am using it to cover candies – I’ve always had difficulty with getting a nice even coating of chocolate when I make things like this, and the shortening added to the chocolate in this recipe really makes a difference.  If you are averse to vegetable shortening (we carry an organic 100% palm oil version), or just don’t have any on hand, I think that coconut oil would be an acceptable substitute.

If you are vegan and are craving some of these homemade candies, I suggest making this coconut version of sweetened condensed milk created by Sunny B on her gluten/dairy-free recipe blog – I think it would work great in this recipe.

…I’ll also mention that our Bakery has developed a vegan peppermint patty that will be available soon – I got to sample one and they are yummy!

Mmmmm...organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Mmmmm…organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Homemade Peppermint Patties

adapted from Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c organic sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 t organic peppermint flavor (use less if you use real extract)
  • 3—4 c organic powdered sugar (up to 1#)
  • 3 c (18 oz) organic fair-trade dark chocolate chips
  • 2 t organic vegetable shortening (or organic coconut oil)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a bowl, combine milk and peppermint flavor.
  2. Stir in 3 c powdered sugar, to form a stiff dough. Once you have initially incorporated the sugar into the milk mixture, it is easiest to finish mixing with your hands.
  3. Knead enough remaining sugar to form a dough that is very stiff and no longer sticky.
  4. Working quickly, shape into 1” balls (really compact the dough) and place on a waxed paper or parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Flatten balls into 1 1/2” disks.Place cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour, flipping them after 15 minutes (don’t freeze them for longer than that).
  6. Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over about 1” of boiling water, stirring frequently. The chocolate is easiest to work with when it remains hot, so once the water is boiling and the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat but keep the bowl on the pot to keep the chocolate warm.
  7. Place a fork under a patty and dip in the chocolate mixture; tap fork against the side of the bowl gently and scrape excess chocolate off the bottom of the patty using the side of the bowl.
  8. Place patty on waxed or parchment paper to harden—you can either do that at room temperature or in the fridge.

These have a great shelf life—keep them in an airtight container (separate layers with parchment paper) in the fridge for up to a month.

Chocolate Peppermint PattiesPDF

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle

Winter Solstice is always exciting in our beautiful corner of the Northwest because it means the days will start getting a little longer again. Leaving for work in the dark and then coming home in the dark (especially when it’s only 4pm!) always leaves me a little unsettled, so I get excited when I know that we are moving in the direction of more daylight!

When I first started thinking about what recipe I would like to demo today all I could think of was darkness – dark chocolate pudding, dark chocolate brownies, a delicious chocolate truffle Bûche de Noël (one of my FAVORITE recipes, and naturally gluten-free). After talking with my coworker Marc, I decided I was being too gloomy, and he suggested making a non-peanut brittle. We pow-wowed for a few minutes, and decided that a local hazelnut and cranberry brittle would be a delicious experiment to try.

I have never made brittle before, and it is very easy as long and you prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time (or mise en place for those of you into cooking terminology). I looked at a few recipes for guidance and got started. The brittle came together pretty quickly – I was done and ready for it to start cooling in about 20 minutes. You will need a candy thermometer, but that is the only special equipment you will need to make this yummy candy.

There are a couple of things I would like to stress about this recipe – make sure you have all your ingredients measured out and have a sink full of HOT water ready for your cooking implements when you are done making the candy – both of these things will make this brittle recipe easy and quick!

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle © Sassy Sampler 2012

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle © Sassy Sampler 2012

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle

Recipe is a collaboration between the Sassy Sampler and Marc Westenberger (a cashier at our Cordata store and all-around great guy)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 c organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c packed organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c organic light corn syrup
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 c raw hazelnuts (I recommend the local hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchard)
  • 1/2 c dried organic cranberries
  • 2 T unsalted organic butter, softened
  • 1 t baking soda

Special Equipment:
Candy thermometer

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mise en place (“everything in place”)—roughly chop the hazelnuts and measure out all ingredients.  Gather them around your stove for an easy reach, as the end of the recipe comes together very quickly and you won’t have time to measure or chop anything.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease it with butter.  Place baking sheet in a warm oven (170°-200°F).
  3. In a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat, combine sugars, corn syrup, sea salt, and water.
  4. While stirring with a rubber spatula, bring to a boil and continue to stir until sugar is dissolved (it will suddenly start to foam up).  Immediately add the hazelnuts and stir continuously until the temperature reaches 300°F.
  5. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the butter, baking soda, and cranberries.  Grab your cookie sheet out of the oven (it’s hot, wear gloves).
  6. Pour immediately onto the baking sheet as evenly as possible (depending on how thick your mixture is—try to pour it in a circle starting at the center) – ideally, it is best if you don’t have to mess with it too much—you can use a couple forks to gently spread it into an even layer on your cookie sheet.
  7. Cool completely, and snap into pieces.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I recommend having a big pot of boiling water or a sink full of really hot soapy water ready to put all your cooking instruments into after you are done making the brittle—if you don’t wash your dishes RIGHT AWAY then anything left in the saucepan will harden in the blink of an eye and become next to impossible to clean.

Hazelnut and Cranberry Brittle PDF

Buttercream Eggs with Royal Icing Flowers – Part 1

When I was young and living overseas, every year my mother and a bunch of other women would all make buttercream eggs to sell at the commissary.  A couple of weeks before Easter, our kitchen would start to fill up with hundreds of Royal Icing flowers to decorate them.  The bags of these candy flowers were so enticing while we waited for the main event and (sorry Mom) I know I stole my fair share of them in the weeks in between!  They were so sweet and cute that I couldn’t resist.

It’s been almost 30 years since my mom made her last buttercream egg, and I ran across the recipe a couple of years ago and decided it would be fun (and nostalgic) to try making them myself.  They were just as good as I remembered them, although it took a little tinkering to get my “drop” flowers to come out right.  I have no idea where the recipe I have came from, and it was missing a chunk of instructions so I ended up having to re-vamp it anyway.

I thought it would be fun to share the recipe even though it takes a little determination to get the flower technique down (the eggs are super easy) – I figure if I can do it than anyone with a little patience can as well (I have very little experience with using pastry bags successfully, and maybe it’s the Boucheés Parmentiers au Fromage that gave me the courage to try these!).

Part 1 – Royal Icing flowers

You need to make these in advance, as they take at least 24 hours to dry.  I will caution that Royal Icing has raw egg whites, unless you use meringue powder.  I’m not scared of a little raw egg because I use only fresh, local, organic eggs – and because I’ve eaten so much raw cookie dough, cake dough, and yes, hundreds (thousands?) of these little flowers in my lifetime that it never even crosses my mind.  If you prefer to avoid them for health reasons, you can buy meringue powder at many grocery stores (except not at the Co-op) – it is made out of powdered egg whites and many cooks feel it is a safer option.  You can find an alternate recipe for the Royal Icing using meringue powder here.

I live on the wild side, so into the bowl my two egg whites went.  You want to beat them until pretty stiff peaks form, and then you slowly add (3 cups!) sifted powdered sugar and a little lemon juice.  The first few times I made the icing, it was way too runny, and you need it to be pretty dense to form the flowers using a pastry tip.  I divided the icing into two different bowls and added  India Tree food coloring that we now carry at the Co-op, made from red cabbage (blue), beet juice (red) and curcumin (yellow).  I went for pink and purple for my icing colors.  I realized that the consistency of the icing still wasn’t right, so I kept mixing in more powdered sugar until my spoon stood up straight on its own.  I loaded the icing into my pastry bags (one with a #96 or #129 tip for the flowers and one with a #2 tip for the center of the flowers) and got to piping!  If you don’t have a pastry bag set, we carry them at the Downtown Co-op in a cute little cake decorating set (I hear that we are out of stock but will have more soon).

Me making Drop Flowers (and a big mess!)

The key is to exert slight pressure and keep a steady hand.  Very lightly press the tip of the pastry bag (with the #96 tip, the #129 is better, but I don’t have one of those) to the surface of your baking sheet and lightly squeeze while turning it about a 1/4 turn while simultaneously lifting the bag straight up (sounds complicated but it really isn’t once you get the hang of it).  It will take a few tries to get it right, but that’s ok because you have plenty of icing to work with!   Once you have a row completed, use the alternate color with the #2 tip to pipe a small dot of icing in the center of your “flower”.  Continue making flowers until you have about half of your icing left, then switch your tips and make flowers in the alternate color (rinse out the tips well before switching).  I meant to take photos of the process (my mom stopped by the Co-op and took the one above), but here’s a short video I found demonstrating the technique (and what they really should look like if you know what you are doing!).

Once you’ve made all the flowers you want to, let them air dry until they are hard.  Rumor is they last forever once they harden, but I’ve never put that to the test!  Keep them in an air-tight container until you need to use them.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the recipe (and a PDF file of the whole thing) for the eggs and show photos of the final product!

Royal Icing Drop Flowers

prepare at least one day and up to one month in advance

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2t lemon juice
  • 3c sifted powdered sugar (plus up to an additional cup)
  • Food coloring
  • Two pastry bags and tips (#2 and a flower tip like #96 or #129)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  2. Gradually add 3c powdered sugar and the lemon juice until smooth.  Add more powdered sugar until icing is very stiff (you should be able to stand your spoon up straight on its own).
  3. Keep covered until used.
  4. Divide icing into two bowls—using a small amount of food coloring, dye each batch the color of your choice.
  5. Fill a piping bag with each color of icing (remember to cover any excess icing) and fit one with a size 96 or 129 tip and the other with a size 2 tip.
  6. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Begin by using the larger number tipped bag—gently press on the top of the bag with the tip just touching the surface of the parchment paper.  As you gently press out the icing,  give it a slight turn and stop pushing out the icing.  It will take a few tries before you get the correct pressure, but never fear, you’ll get it!  Make sure you lift the tip straight up.
  8. Using the bag with the #2 tip, pip a small dot in the center of the flower.  Repeat until half of your flower tipped bag is gone, then remove tips, rinse out, and switch tips so you can make flowers in the color you were using for the center of the flower.
  9. Let air dry until very hard.  Store in airtight container until used.