Photo by Romulo YanesBy Lauren Salkeld, Epicurious.com
Whether you're filling costumed kids' goodie bags or hosting a grown-up bash, homemade snacks take Halloween to a whole new level. And the good news is that beyond a thermometer and a few tricks of the trade, making your own Halloween confections doesn't require any special equipment or professional experience. Here, we've gathered recipes and tips for making old-fashioned sweets like brittle, bark, and caramel apples, plus three homespun takes on store-bought classics-Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy bars, and York Peppermint Patties. Best of all, some of these you can make with your little goblin's help.
See also: How to Make Zombie Cupcakes
Toasted Marshmallow Squares
yield: Makes about 4 dozen candies
active time: 1 hr
total time: 3 1/4 hr (includes setting time)
- 2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
- 3 (1/4-ounces) envelopes unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup water, divided
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- Equipment: a 9-inch square metal baking pan; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment; a candy thermometer
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes.
Oil 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften while making syrup.
Heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.
With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more.
Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.
Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.
Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares.
Put remaining toasted coconut in a small bowl and dredge marshmallows in it to coat completely.
Cook's notes: · Marshmallow squares keep, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container, in a dry place at cool room temperature 1 month. · To avoid stickiness, try to make marshmallows on a dry day.
- Brown Sugar-Pecan Fudge Balls
- Maple Pecan Popcorn
- Crispy Rice and Fruit Bark
- Pumpkin Seed Brittle
- Hannah's Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Candies
- Molasses Sponge Candy
- Caramel-Dipped Apples
Homemade Candy Classics
1. Avoid Crystallization
Several of our homemade candy recipes involve cooking sugar to make caramel, and there are a few helpful techniques to keep in mind. Start with a heavy-bottomed pan and be sure to use tools that can withstand high temperatures. To avoid crystallization (the clumping of sugar particles), place a pastry brush in a bowl of cold water and use it to wash away any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. Agitating sugar can also cause crystallization, so stir only when a recipe calls for it.
2. Use a Thermometer
Two types of thermometers come in handy for candy making. Candy thermometers, which are made of glass and have a rectangular metal casing, are inexpensive and take a lot of the guesswork out of cooking sugar. Look for a thermometer with a clip for attaching to the side of the pan and temperature markings for the various stages of cooking sugar (hard ball, soft crack, etc.). A candy thermometer can be used when tempering chocolate, but an instant-read thermometer is often more convenient. These also are inexpensive-plus, they're useful for common kitchen tasks like taking the temperature of a roast. Look for a thermometer that can be manually recalibrated if necessary.
Related: Five Ways to Keep Your Kids' Halloween Healthy
3.Melt Chocolate Slowly and Gently
The best way to melt chocolate is slowly, over indirect heat, using a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the metal bowl doesn't touch the simmering water, and don't allow the water to come to a boil. Finely chop the chocolate and stir it with a rubber spatula to prevent burning. Alternatively, chocolate can be melted in the microwave. Place finely chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and if possible, set your microwave to low or 50 percent power. Melt the chocolate gradually in 10- to 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Coating chocolate, which contains vegetable oil, is another option: It lacks the flavor and mouth feel of high-quality chocolate, but it melts easily and hardens quickly. (For more advice, watch our how-to video for melting chocolate.)
4.Learn to Temper
Tempering chocolate involves melting, cooling, and rewarming chocolate, a process that aligns the cocoa butter crystals and gives chocolate its hard, glossy appearance and characteristic snap. While it isn't a necessary step for barks and other simple candies, making your own truffles and dipped or molded chocolates often requires tempering to ensure the best texture and appearance. Follow these tempering instructions and be sure to use high-quality chocolate such as Valrhona, Callebaut, Scharffen Berger, and Michel Cluizel. Lower-quality brands (as well as chocolate chips) usually don't contain enough cocoa butter for tempering. (For more advice, watch our how-to video for tempering chocolate)
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