Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Confections

Just before Christmas is the perfect time to practice (or acquire) candy-making skills. Cold weather keeps you indoors and boiling up sugar helps keep the chill away. Confections are great to give as gifts or just keep around for holiday visitors to nibble. I've made three different confections this week two new and one oldy but goody.

These recipes require one thing in common: lots of sugar. Also, you will want to buy a candy thermometer like this one.


Candied Citrus Peel
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

A great way to use the part of citrus that usually get tossed (the peel), this recipe yielded great results, but seemed like it contained a few too many steps, so I may see if I can simplify it in the future. In the meanwhile, only attempt this when you have a few good hours to sit in or near your kitchen, perhaps while watching a movie you've already seen.



Peel of around 3 oranges, 2 grapefruits or 4-6 lemons (or a combination)
2 cups sugar, divided
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 cup water

Remove peel from citrus by using a tool like this citrus zester or by cutting off in chunks with a knife and then slicing into strips.

Place in a saucepan: citrus peel and water to cover. Simmer for 30 minutes. Drain.

Cover peel with fresh cold water and simmer until tender about 30 more minutes. Drain.

Place peel into a bowl, refresh under cold water and remove any pith from peel by using a spoon (or your nails)

Back in the saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, corn syrup and 3/4 cup water. Stire over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Ad peel and cook gently over low heat until most of the syrup is absorbed (this can take up to an hour depending on amount of peel, hence the recommended movie watching).

Turn off heat. Cover pan and let sit overnight.

Bring pan with peel that sat overnight to a simmer then let cool slightly and drain. Pour 1 cup of sugar into a shallow dish. Working quickly, dredge each piece of peel in sugar and spread on parchment or wax paper to dry. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four months.





Home-made Marshmallows
Adapted from Epicurious

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup cold water, divided
3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other extract such as peppermint, cinnamon, etc.)
1/2 cup potato or corn starch
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Warning: This is an extremely sticky project. Coat anything that you would not like coated in marshmallow with cooking spray.

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil.

Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes. If dry gelatin remains, sprinkle a bit more water over until it is all semi-translucent and gel-like.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 5 minutes.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 10 minutes. Add extract and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with hands coated in cooking spray. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

*A food thickener made from cooked,

dried, ground potatoes, this gluten free flour is also known as potato flour; available at most supermarkets.

Stir starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Spread generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat scissors with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat, shaking off excess mixture.


These can be layered between sheets of parchment and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Enjoy in your holiday cocoa with or without peppermint schnapps











































I've made these Sugared Cranberries every holiday since the recipe appeared in a 2003 Cooking Light. They're easy and cheap to make. Perfect for a gift since they don't require refrigeration. Plus, they're very pretty and make a delightful 'pop' in your mouth when you bite into them.



Sugared Cranberries

from Cooking Light

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup superfine sugar







Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.


Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup)







4 comments:

k8nyc said...

These cranberries are SO GOOD and SO PRETTY! I didn't realize they were (ahem) SO EASY, too!

Leslie said...

Thanks, k8! Yes, the active time on the cranberries is super simple...the overnight wait time is the only annoying bit.

Daniel said...

The marshmallows are unbelievably good, but, based on what the kitchen looked like afterwards, kind of a stiky mess.

Daniel said...

hmm, sticky, yeah.