So, several years ago I decided to make cookies for a bunch of my friends. I made dozens and dozens of cookies and sent them all over the country. I was so insane about this that I made cookies and sent them out days before having a rib removed and moving to Colorado at the end of 2006.
But I hate baking in Colorado because of the altitude, so I didn't send any cookies out in 2007 or 2008.
This year I started getting passive-aggressive comments from my friends about the lack of cookies, which were both hilarious and annoying. I didn't want to do the cookies again but I realized that I had a new love that I could make instead...candy!
Candy is actually better in Colorado than the midwest because of the low humidity. I thought they would take approximately the same amount of time as the cookies. That was incredibly wrong. They took me at least ten times as much time.
I made many types of candy, half from TJOC and half from other cookbooks. I went to Barnes and Noble and perused their candy-making section. It was four books. Only four books. I bought two of them. I actually bought fifty percent of their candy section. Not even half the titles--half of the books!
The first book I bought was The Field Guide to Candy. I was excited about this book! It was cute and colorful and had information on approximately every candy ever made! I decide to make several candies out of it! I started by making gumdrops.
This is what I ended up with:
That is not a gumdrop, even if you cut it. And it didn't even taste good. I threw it away. I figured it was my fault and made peppermints. An even bigger disaster that almost ruined my saucepan (I didn't even take a picture). DON'T BUY THIS BOOK UNLESS YOU JUST WANT TO LOOK AT THE PICTURES! I had been really excited about making cherry cordials for my father--I had the cherries soaking in kirsch and everything--and I decided not to try because I was not optimistic that they would turn out.
I had much, much better luck with Brittles, Barks, and Bonbons by Charity Ferreira. I made three recipes from it. I'm not going to do a step-by-step because these aren't TJOC recipes :)
Butter mints! I didn't know these little mints were called butter mints but I always take a handful when I see them out at a resturant. They were easy to make and delicious. They also don't require any cooking so they would be a good starter candy.
Peppermint bark is something that I've never been a huge fan of, but it's really easy to make. Believe it or not, I couldn't find candy canes at the grocery store. I certainly couldn't believe it. It always seems like there are hundreds of candy canes everywhere and I get dozens of them for holidays--and I don't even like them! It took a special candy cane pilgrimage to Walgreens (which has a wide selection of candy canes).
As I said, I don't like peppermint bark, so I have no idea how it tastes. But a coworker who loves the stuff said it was tasty. And it sure was pretty!
Personally, I love rocky road. And s'mores. I like chocolatey combos. This rocky road was just chocolate, marshmallows, and pecans and it was aaammmmaaazzzing. The book taught me a great trick--don't worry about tempering the chocolate, just melt the chocolate so slowly that it never falls out of temper.
I also made macadamia nut brittle. Incredibly good if you like macadamia nuts, although rather expensive to make.
PSA--I call my dog a little roomba because she is constantly eating everything that falls on the floor. I dropped macadamia nuts and didn't think anything of it. About ten hours later, I went upstairs to go to bed and called Duchess. She didn't follow me. I kept calling her and looked down the stairs and she was staggering up. I went to get her and her back legs weren't working--they were paralyzed. I immediately figured that she had probably eaten something she shouldn't have and I googled and found out that MACADAMIA NUTS ARE TOXIC FOR DOGS. I called the ER and they said that it should pass in 24 hours, just watch her. She was better in 24 hours but it was terrifying--it actually paralyzed her back legs but the poor dog still was wagging her tail :(
Finally, out of my 1964 TJOC, I made Maple caramels:
First off, the recipe was written in (apparently) 60's lingo. I was supposed to cook the candy over a "quick heat" and then cook the ingredients "slowly". Very vague. It took about an hour to get up to temperature. When I popped them out and cut them, they were extremely fragile and granular--I was sure they were wrong. I gave one to my father (who, unfortunately for him, is on the Atkin's diet and couldn't eat any of the candy) and he told me they were perfect--it was an old-fashioned candy and that was exactly what they were supposed to taste like. I found them extremely addictive--they only had four ingredients--maple syrup (spelled sirup, strangely, and the real stuff--very expensive at Whole Foods), brown sugar, cream, and butter.
The table got incredibly full--and this wasn't even all the candy!
Hooray for candy-making!