Friday, April 22, 2011

Homemade Peeps and More!

After almost all the jellies failed I figured I needed something else to fill the baskets besides peeps and hard candy, so I started thinking about all the leftover Wilton's Candy Melts I had left over. It got me thinking about peppermint patties which are so easy and fast to make. I had never had peppermint patties with white chocolate but I figured why not try it!

Like I said, I had left over candy melts, so not much for dipping, so I decided to dip the eggs with two colors (yellow and blue) and accent them with a third color (purple) to cover the seam. They were fun to make, although Wiltons Candy Melts can be hard to work with. I so much prefer my Chocoley's Dipping and Enrobing Formula, although I don't miss having to color the white chocolate myself! They taste pretty good too. It's a nice change from the traditional recipe.

Yesterday, I finally put the eyes and flower centers on my second batch of peeps. Its amazing how much a little dab of black royal icing makes! It makes up for my first attempt!

How pretty would these peeps be as a centerpeice on your table? Its too bad that I already had plans to package them in small cellophane bags and in the Easter baskets for my neices. So I spent hours today printing stickers, cutting card stock, stapling, etc... In all, I made 13 packages, varying the stickers and card stock to match the peeps.

It took about 4 hours! So much more time than I had expected! Especially since I started the stickers weeks ago. But the end product was worth it. I can't wait to pass them out to my neighbors tomorrow!

I mean, who wouldn't want a package of these?

They look so sweet and springy! Is that a word? I will have to try that in Words With Friends to see ;-)

And again going witht he flow sometimes works out. Having the macaroon shaped marshmallows allows the more traditional peeps to shine while almost putting them in a scene. Like maybe they are little pillows for the chicks and bunnies...

I think this one is my favorite! The polka dots are just so cute and the complimentary colors are so striking. This is the only slicker I cut out like this because I just didn't have the time to do all that intricate cutting today, but you can see how nice the effect is.

Okay, so now its time to start prepping for Easter dinner. Have a great holiday weekend everyone!!!

Sweet Charity

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This was one of those weeks where nothing has gone as planned. Now I should say that this is a pretty normal thing around here because my plans are usually not humanly possible. I mean, in two weeks I had planned on make 4 types of hard candy, 3 kinds of candy jellies and homemade peeps. All this while making Easter dinner, working, doing chores etc. plus dealing with the car accident I had a week and half ago (I am fine by the way).

So anyway I planned on making all this candy and it starts to, pour...not for a day or two, but like on and off for two weeks now... just pouring nonstop. The Potomac and the Shenandoah are flooding and needless to say my leaky house is wet inside and out (unfortunately this is also a normal occurance).

So what's the problem with the rain? Candies HATE humidity. So lets just say that I've been failing at my plans, but I am not letting it get me down.

I started my massive list with homemade peeps. I decided to make the cute like bunny marshmallows on Martha's website. I am not the best piper, but I thought that with as many times as I've made marshmallows this would be a snap. Nope, nada, no how... Much harder than they make it sound. It was such an epic fail that I didn't even photograph my attempts at the bunnies. So I regrouped quickly (marshmallows set up quickly) and decided to pipe some lovely macaroon shapes. This worked out quite nicely and I am pretty happy that I at least saved the batch.

Not to be detered, I also made another batch of regular marshmallows that I cut out with cookie cutters. This batch will hopefully get done tomorrow when I put eyes on the chicks and bunnies! Stay tuned....

So, I moved on to my jellies... I wanted to make lemon, kiwi and blackberry. We started with lemon and yet another FAIL!!!! They seemed to set up beautifully but when sugared they wept! I mean rivers of we moved on to kiwi jellies...which voila..

...look perfecto! They set up perfectly and luckily no crying here. The taste is okay. My complaint is that they are not really "American sweet". They sorta remind me of the sweets I had in Spain that are interesting but not really what I would crave. But they are so pretty! Hopefully the kids will like them better than me.

So, determined to have some lemon flavored candies I try to make a lemon gumdrop recipe. It seems to go well but a few days later and its still gummy...but its been raining and raining and raining...

Until today...its dry (but still humid as all that wetness steams off of the earth) BUT.... I end up having this bad asthma attack, go to the doctor, spend the day feeling like muck...until tonight, the breathing treatment and the steriods start to kick in and I am up for another whole-hearted try.

After my first, second and third attempts at pulling sugar I am not up for burning myself again after spending the day nursing my lungs back to health. So I make pineapple hard candy but decide to skip the pulling.

Lets backtrack a little. I found these awesome plastic Easter candy molds at an antique market a while back. Normally these molds are for chocolate, but I got them cheap so I thought that I would take the risk of them melting. I got lucky this time and they did not melt.

They came out great. Only trouble is that I cannot work fast enough and the candy started to darken in the pan before I could get them done. No worries, they just look more amber than chick colored.

I wrapped some of them, but again the humidity was affecting the chicks so I sugared some of them too. They also look amazing so I don't know which I like better.

So, overall, I guess its not too bad, but I guess you just have to go with the flow. I have dreamt up some cute chocolate egg ideas to replace the failed jellies, so hopefully I will manage to get back on schedule before its time to actually start cooking Easter dinner.

On the list are:

1. Coloring eggs

2. Black Currant Hard Candy

3. Easter Egg Chocolates

4. Finishing the peeps

Think I can get it all done, wrapped, packaged, photographed etc in time? I don't know, but its nice to give all the children in my life homemade sweets!

Happy Candy Making!

Sweet Charity ;-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Candy

So I found this cute little ceramic Easter basket at Kohls and it inspired me to make some wonderful treats to fill it. Best part is, I had Kohls cash and it was on sale so I paid like $4 for this cutie. I was thinking about making more chocolates for the upcoming holiday, but I changed my mind. I like color schemes because it makes the gifts I make look so much more put together. So I decided that making pretty pastel candies would be just the thing. So...

I started with Green Apple Hard Candies. I tried to make swirled lollipops last weekend, but alas, pulling sugar is much harder than I had ever imagined. So needless to say, since you are not seeing pictures of the outcome...I failed miserably. But if at first you don't succeed...

The second try at hard candy went much better, other than my burned thumbs. So to make this wonderful candy opaque and get those lovely striations, you "pull" the candy before it hardens and AFTER it has cooled enough to work...

There must be some magic trick to this, or maybe its just takes a lot of experience, but this is definately not easy to do. I even studied my new cookbook Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner to try to learn how to do this properly. This book reads much more like a textbook than a cookbook even though it has recipes because it explains the science behind the process of making confections. In some ways that was very helpful, but it still didn't help me much with the "pulling" part.

Once you pull the candy and it is opaque and aerated, you stretch the candy into a long rope and cut it into peices with scissors. This was also problematic because it was cooling too fast and after the first 10 peices or so, they were breaking off instead of forming a cute little pillow shape.

I separated the batch into two since I was working alone on these. The second batch I left in the pan to stay warm since I didn't have a warming lamp. This batch was easier to work, but the color darkened to a sickly yellowish green.

Green Apple Candy

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cups water

3/4 cups corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon green apple extract

1/4 teaspoon citric acid

green food coloring

Cook the sugar and water over high heat until the sugar dissolves and the water starts to boil. Then add the corn syrup and cream of tartar and cook to 313 F degrees without stirring. Take the mixture off the heat and add the citric acid, extract and food coloring. Stir to combine. Pour into molds or onto a lightly oiled surface to set up.

So long story short, the candies are made and I am only burned a little. I individually wrapped the peices in cellophane because the outsides are still slightly sticky. They look so pretty in a glass bowl and they taste pretty good too.

I should point out that you do not need to pull the candy to make hard candy. They sell molds for this purpose, or you can just break apart the slab of candy after it cools. You can even make lollipops without too much trouble. It's just that I am the kind of person that doesn't do anything the easy way, even if ithe task requires bodily harm.

So, after this lovely batch was made and the hubby got home we made another batch that was watermelon flavored. I thought, it has to get easier the more you do it, right?


Now I have small burns on all my my conculsions are thus...

1) use gloves ( I have seen a variety of types recommended online from plastic to leather)

2) I think my kitchen has to be warmer because my marble countertops were too cold. The batch that cooled more slowly in the pan worked much better, making me think that the 60 degree spring weather inside my house is not conducive to candy making. (this is also true of chocolates)

3) Just buy Jolly Ranchers!!!

Just kidding...I really like to make things myself. There is nothing like giving someone something you've made yourself.

I had planned on making two more flavors....Pineapple and Black Currant. I'll let you know if I am brave enough to try it again!

Happy Spring

Sweet Charity ;-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good things come in small sizes!

Recently I made these mini-tarts for a workshop I attended. I love the idea of mini treats! I grew up with my mom baking pies, so naturally I was drawn to the All-American idea! However, as an adult I quickly became interested in tarts, which although similar to pies, are a bit more fancy and the flavors usually a little more complex. Mini-tarts are not much harder to make than regular tarts but you need some equipment and supplies. You will need some mini tart tins, aluminum foil, and rice or beans.

The process is very similar to a tart, in that you make the crust and blind bake them before adding the filling. Roll the dough into a large round and cut into smaller peices to fit the tins. Press the dough into the tins, rolling the dough over the edges. Then, take a rolling pin and roll it over the tin to cut off the excess dough. Cover the dough with aluminum foil and fill it with rice or beans. Blind bake according to the recipe directions. The recipes I used were Espresso Ganache Tartlets, Pear Almond Tarts, and Lemon Curd Tarts. I did not use the blueberries on the lemon curd tarts, but I have in the past and this recipe is perfection, especially on a summer day. To top off the tarts I piped on some whipped cream and voila!!! Easy-peasy mini treats that are great for a party.

The best part is that you can make these a few days in advance of your shindig and keep them in the fridge. I have made mini tarts for Thanksgiving but Easter is a perfect opportunity for mini goodness, that way all of your guests can sample all the flavors without guilt!!!! Enjoy!!! Sweet Charity