Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas Creating is Underway!

I love Christmas. .and everything about it. .the lights and glitter. .the cheer. .the warm fuzzy feelings. .the meaning of the season. .and the FOOD!!
I always love the day when I get to flip to the back of my beloved family cookbook and map a plan. This year, my "plan" includes 8 different kinds of candy (with 6 of those under our belts as of this evening), 7 different cookie/bar recipes. .and 9 snack foods. .including varieties of dip mixes, beverage mixes, and savory snacks. Does that sound out of control?? I'm in heaven!! B-R-I-N-G   I-T   O-O-O-ON!!
I. .I mean WE. .tried out that new candy thermometer last weekend.
Helpers. .helpers. .there are always more helpers than one person should be allowed to have around here. I did have Devin hold my old thermometer up to make a point. .this beast of a pot held the ingredients that ultimately made 7 pounds of peanut brittle. .In past years. .I would have rigged up a rope from twist ties found in my top drawer and loop them around the pot handle and dangle the thermometer in. But you can see the nice big digital thermometer. .it is standing there all by it's little 'ole self!!
I can set it to beep at the right temperature. .and don't have to keep bending over to try to read the mercury one. I love it. .I love it. .I LOVE it!! If you become a serious candy maker. .this is the thing for you!! After 15 years of making increasingly larger amounts of candy. .I guess I finally earned one!
Here's my recipe for the nut brittle. .candy isn't really as hard as you would think!! This takes a little bit of time, around an hour. .give or take. .but so worth it!! We don't eat that much peanut brittle. .but it makes great gifts for people, and I always give a ton of it away!
This was the biggest batch I have ever made at one time. .much faster than making a couple separate batches because I run out!!
Divine crispy goodness!
Next up that afternoon was toffee. This has got to be the easiest thing to do. .four little ingredients. .and about 20 minutes of cooking!
I usually throw pecans into the candy. .but this year I decided to throw a few in the candy and a few on the top. I wanted to bring out the nuttiness by toasting them. I used to put the nut pieces on a baking sheet and throw them into the oven for about 10 minutes. .somehow, I figured out that one can throw them in a skillet and toast them up a little quicker on the stove. Just be sure that you constantly stir them or they will burn! Also. .when you are done toasting them. .take them OUT of the skillet to cool while you go onto other things. .or they will still burn!
After you cook up the toffee as the directions advise, pour it onto a couple of pans. .Don't scrape the bottom of the pot. Cause it will invariably look like that brown mess above-and you don't really want that mucking up the good stuff! Your toffee is whatever gravitates out of the pot on its own accord. .What's left in the pot on the side or bottom is yours to chunk out of the pan and eat yourself.
It needs to sit for a few minutes, and then sprinkle chocolate chips over top. .Let that sit for another few minutes and then spread with a spatula or knife. I sprinkled the nuts on top and pressed down lightly to help keep them in the toffee. They tasted good that way, but ultimately. .the darn things still seem to fall off as I break the toffee into bitesized pieces. .not sure it is worth that extra mess. .I may just go back to putting them all into the toffee.
If you want to get really fancy, you can drizzle the toffee with white chocolate. .which is really nice. .I'm just too lazy to do it!
I always use real butter to make it. A couple of years in a row, I had trouble with my toffee separating back into a runny butter-y mess near the end of cook time. If that happens, you add a couple tablespoons of water to the mix and keep cooking until it straightens out. .I never did figure out what that was all about. .but it hasn't happened for a long time. .wonder if it was the candy thermometer at the time. One should really test it before they use it. You do that by boiling water with the thermometer in the pan. It should boil at 112 degrees. If it boils at 108, subtract 4 degrees off your final cooking temperature (296 instead of 300 degrees for example)
This afternoon, I whipped through the easy-peasy recipes. .Salted chocolate pecan candies. . melted chocolate bars swirled together and topped with toasted pecans and sea salt.
Peppermint bark. .Just like all the gift stores sell. .takes 5 minutes TOPS!! 
These were new this year. .Coconut bonbons. They are much like an almond joy. .with coconut, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and toasted almond bits inside that chocolately coating. I just finished dipping them and I haven't sampled them yet, but Jeremy proclaimed their goodness as the chocolate dripped off his beard!!
And these little d-e-v-i-l-s! Oreo cookies dipped in white chocolate or almond bark. Most of them will be repackaged into little bags to tuck into gift baskets. .or arranged as a pop of Christmas color on a goodie plate. Cami and Devin were in charge of the sprinkles. .I'll bet you would have NEVER guessed that had I not brought it up!! It was a race to see who could sprinkle it first!

My 3 regular Christmas shopping buddies are meeting up at 6:30 in the morning to head for the city. .it will be shopping till we drop. .eating till we're stuffed. .and talking as fast as we can. .until we pull back into town tomorrow night, hopefully by midnight!!

Have a great weekend!!


  1. Wow, Melanie, what an amazing selection of goodies. They all look so delicious. Can you believe it-I don't even make any Christmas treats anymore. I think you've inspired me to make something (as if Don and I NEED anymore goodies!)
    Enjoy your shopping day with the girls!

  2. Mmmmm! That all looks absolutely delicious! And you make it all sound so easy that I may just need to try making a bit this year. So far, my candy-making has been confined to fudge and chocolate-covered peanut butter balls.

  3. Oh man! It all looks so good!! I really want to try the toffee and the brittle. I'll let you know when I make it and how it turned out! Thanks for posting the recipes!!

  4. Are you available for hire? I can't seem to get one thing made this year...BUT I have high hopes for all the delicious things I will make next year in my new kitchen!!

  5. I'll never know 1): how you do it all, 2):how you keep coming back year after year for more, and 3): How you stay skinny! :) . It is amazing how much different your house is than mine. DJ

  6. Oh my goodness! Sounds like your a cooking fool! Ha ha! If I did all that I would be as fat as a pig. I'm so upset I'm not your neighbor!
    Coconut bonbons! Stop it I can't take anymore!!