my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

December 7, 2010

the sweetest time of the year

every year for christmas i make my family holiday treats instead of giving more traditional store bought gifts. maybe it's because i can never think of what to actually buy for them, or maybe it's because i'm cheap (and poor), or maybe it's because one of my not so secret skills is candy making, and it's during the holiday season that people welcome with open arms three or so pounds of sugary goodness. as opposed to other times of the year when they either think you did something wrong and are trying to apologize without having to actually say what you did, or there might be something wrong with the candy gift, and they're more test subjects then recipients of something nice.

anyway, even though i'm not totally over this awful cold i've been struggling through, i knew i needed to get started on my lists or i would fall way behind on my preparations. yes, lists, as in multiple, many, more than one; i am a girl that loves her lists. mostly i love lists written on steno pads, but then those closest to me know my affinity for those lovely little tablets.

so yesterday i sat down and wrote down all the kinds of candy that i wanted to or had to make. i usually only make and give candy as my special gift to people, because i make dozens of cookies with my mom every year and giving cookies is kind of her thing. and i make random kinds of cookies throughout the year, so cookies aren't exactly special in my book anymore. candy is something i only make one or two times a year, something reserved for a very special treat, and around the holidays i try and make a few of my more popular varieties to share with family and friends.

not that i'm saying i've created any new candy recipes or anything, i'm not quite that good. no, i stick to mastering the techniques of candy making, using a thermometer and heating the sugar up through the crack and balls stages, almost up to caramel. one of these days i'm going to try my hand at making a chewy caramel, but hot sugar is like the napalm of the kitchen, it burns like crazy if spilled and sticks to everything. even after all these years of playing with cooked sugar, i still get nervous and at least a few blisters and burns from working with the stuff.

what i like best, though, is the alchemy of making brittle, and peanut brittle is one that's always asked for, so it's one i always make. and one i don't mind making, because i honestly hate the stuff, so i don't feel any urges to snack on the product. i also have a chocolate fudge recipes that produces a candy very similar to those after dinner mints you sometimes get. that's another favorite that i don't really see the appeal of, but then i'm a crazy girl that likes to keep her chocolate and mint separate. then there are always peanut butter meltaways, something so ridiculously easy to make, i sometimes feel guilty giving it away and calling it a worthwhile gift. usually i make sugar spiced nuts, another super easy favorite to prepare, but this year i'm going in a different direction. i'm not sure if it's the lure of all the food blogs i've been reading, or all the cooking shows i've been watching on tv, but i'm going to try my hand at fudge this year.

not that i haven't made fudge before. there is of course the chocolate mint kind i make every year. and a very simple chocolate peanut butter recipe i got off my mother years ago. this year, though, i'm going to try a few different kinds of fudge, and a few different recipes that i've never tried before. they seem sound, and i trust their sources, so i'm not going to try make sample batches before the big day. or at least, with how i'm still feeling, i'm not planning on making any sample batches. maybe if i can round up a few kitchen helpers/guinea pigs, i might go for a test run or two.

so now that i have my list of candy that i'm making, i've also broken it down into ingredients and came up with a shopping list. next i just have to get to the store and buy the butter and the sugar and all the different types of chocolate. and some cup papers for the chocolate to sit in. and some pretty boxes to put the finished candy in so i can give it all away. and maybe a gift tag or two so i know who is supposed to get what box. yeah, i think i still have a bit of work ahead of me. but the sweet, sugary rush is one of my favorite things about this time of year.

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