My mother, who was not an all year long candy maker, did make candy at Christmastime. I remember going with her to purchase the special ingredients used only this time of year. A block of Gulf candy wax would hang out in the fridge waiting to be added to the chocolate that covered her peanut butter balls (also called buckeyes, but not by us).
In addition to her pecan pies and/or pecan tassies (small bite sized pecan pies) and the peanut butter balls, she also made chocolate fudge, ding-a-lings (also called haystacks…the butterscotch covered chow mein noodles), and orange balls covered in shredded coconut. I have really been missing the orange balls as of late.
When cooking, my mom did not want anyone else in the kitchen. Since she wasn’t a big cook, it made her nervous to have all the activity going on when she was trying to concentrate. Once my mom finished the candy, she would call us in so that we could have a taste. As young children, it seemed like we were trying the most exotic delicacies!
I know my mom would serve a platter of treats at our family Christmas dinner, but I don’t know if she would take plates of candy to work or share with friends. Aren’t these homemade sweet treat plates the most exciting gift of the season? Now that I am old enough to know how much work goes into making an assortment of homemade candies, I appreciate them all the more!
The usual Christmas treats I make include Aunt Pinkie’s pumpkin log, gingerbread cookies (new last year), ding-a-lings, sugared peanuts (my friend, Diane’s recipe), and the almond bark covered, peanut butter filled, Ritz crackers (these things need a name!). I have also made peppermint bark and peanut butter fudge off and on. Other sweets I like to make this time of year are pumpkin dip served with ginger snaps, pecan pies and pumpkin/yam pies.
I made peanut brittle for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was a great recipe (click here for the recipe), so it turned out perfectly. My personal dislike when it comes to peanut brittle are those that taste like baking soda. This recipe was easy, straightforward, and did not taste of baking soda!
If you are new to peanut brittle, my recommendations would include:
Have everything ready to go (mise en place – have ingredients measured and ready and ready for use). Also have the sheet pan lined and ready to pour the hot candy on. All the steps can go quickly when making the brittle.
Watch the candy thermometer, but also watch the candy. By the time my thermometer got to 300 degrees, my candy had almost burned. The color had changed to a golden brown about 5 minutes before the thermometer hit 300 degrees. The next time I make peanut brittle, I will add the baking soda when it hits 300 degrees on the thermometer or when it turns the correct color…whichever comes first.
I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper and then sprayed the paper with cooking spray. It made clean up easy!
I did follow the recipe and used a wooden spoon to spread the candy out on the cookie sheet. Since I try not to soak my wooden spoons, I will use a silicon spoon next time.
What are your favorite candies and sweets to make for Christmas? And more importantly, which are your favorites to eat?