candy canes, caramel anything, fleur de sels, holiday candies, sugary goodness

Christmas Munchies

I sit here, partially encrusted in chocolate and wayward caramel, with the faintest hint of candy cane dust clogging my nostrils. In fact, if you were to run your finger along my counters, thousands of sticky sweet microbes would instantly adhere themselves to you. This is the one time of year when, instead of baking armloads of cookies, I dip those arms into pounds upon pounds of chocolate and corn syrup.

To choose one over the other is merely an issue of space over preference. Working with almost no counter space caramels and chocolate enrobed things occupy less space then a dozen cookie sheets sprawled out on every clear surface in the kitchen. Very little of this will actually be consumed by anyone living under this roof… instead, it will go to relatives and co-workers to keep them sugared up, and their teeth slightly aching, over the next week.


Fleur de Sel Caramels from Epicurious.com

* 1 cup heavy cream
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 1 teaspoon fleur de sel*
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup light corn syrup
* 1/4 cup water

* Special equipment: parchment paper; a deep-fat thermometer
Preparation

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Using the “Chocolate Dipped Anything” recipe for tempering chocolate from Mark Bittman from the NYTimes.com, I took some Deli Style Pretzel Crisps and slathered them in the tempered chocolate and topped half with pulsed bits of candy canes. The true gem of these are the crisps, themselves. Full of a hearty snap and just enough salt, they provide a wonderful base for their sweet counterparts.

In the face of all that I know and hold dear, I made fudge with Fluff and I have no shame about it. Sure, I can pull off the Fleur de Sel with no issues, but I was not in the mood to push my luck and copped out completely. I am now in possession of five pounds of candy cane laden fudge that would kill my dentist with the mere mention of a whopping five cups of sugar that were used to make it(I made double the recipe below, without nuts)

Never Fail Fudge

* 2 1/2 c. sugar
* 3/4 tsp. salt
* 1/2 stick butter or margarine
* 1 5 oz. can evaporated milk (2/3 c.)
* 1 Jar (7 1/2oz) Marshmallow Fluff
* 3/4 tsp. vanilla
* 1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate pieces
* 1 /2 c. chopped walnuts

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan; set aside. In large saucepan combine the first 5 ingredients. Stir over low heat until blended. Increase heat to Medium and bring to a full-rolling boil being careful not to mistake escaping air bubbles for boiling. Boil slowly, stirring constantly for 5 minutes (use Soft-Ball test). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and chocolate until chocolate is melted. Add nuts. Turn into greased pan and cool. Makes 2 1/2 pounds.

The only things left now, if I can fit them in, are a few batches of Peanut Butter Buckeyes(a batch made w/Tahini for a friend w/a nut allergy, though we’ll see if it translates) and Biscotti for my partners aunt and mother. Then I fall into detox next month after all of this sugary goodness.

Merry Christmas!

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