Homemade candy is a sweet tradition during the holidays. Even people who rarely manage to get a frozen dinner into the microwave during most of the year often have a favorite family candy recipe that they make in December no matter what.
Treat family and friends to this trio of homemade candies this holiday season. These scrumptious treats are sure to delight anyone who is lucky enough to eat them. Best of all, they are so easy that even candy-making novices will be able to stir together a batch for last-minute gifts.
Quick Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels
Yields 36 Pieces | Time: 10 Minutes
These buttery rich caramels are sprinkled with just a touch of vanilla sea salt for that combination of sweet and salty everyone loves. They are perfect gifts because they are so quick and easy right in the microwave! Vanilla sea salt is available online and in some stores that specialize in gourmet items. It can be omitted if preferred. These caramels also look pretty when they are halfway dipped in dark chocolate.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- Vanilla sea salt for sprinkling, optional
- Spray an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray, or butter it generously.
- In a glass or other microwave-safe bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.
- Microwave on high for six minutes, stirring every 90 seconds or so and watching carefully.
- Pour into the prepared pan.
- Let cool until set, about five minutes.
- Sprinkle the vanilla salt crystals over the top. Be careful not to use too much.
- Press in gently.
- Let cool completely.
- Cut into small squares.
- Wrap the individual squares in parchment or waxed paper to keep fresh.
Yields 12 Pieces | Time: 2 Hours
Spicy chilies, tequila, and chocolate come together to create a memorable chocolate truffle that is sure to please even the most discerning Texas palate. Creamy truffles are flavored with reposado tequila, freshly ground chilies, cinnamon, and a touch of orange liqueur, then rolled in cinnamon, chile, and a cocoa mixture. Finally, they are dipped in chocolate and decorated as desired.
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 16 ounces dark chocolate chips, divided use
- 3 tablespoons reposado tequila
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons chile mixture, divided use (you can also use purchased chipotle powder if you like)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided use
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Sprinkles of choice or more of the chile mixture for decorating
- 1 dried chipotle
- 1 dried ancho
- 3 pequin peppers
- Heat the cream in the microwave for about two minutes or until bubbles form around the edges and it is very hot.
- Stir in the butter and 10 ounces of the chocolate chips.
- Stir the mixture until it is blended.
- If all of the chocolate and butter is not melted (it probably will not be) continue heating it until it is melted and very smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. This will take one minute at most.
- Stir in the tequila, Triple Sec, vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of the chile mixture, and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Stir slowly until well blended and smooth; you do not want to whisk or get air bubbles in the chocolate mixture.
- Chill for about one hour, or until firm.
- Mix the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and the remaining cinnamon and chile powders on a flat plate. Set aside.
- Use a melon baller or teaspoon to measure out the truffles, rolling them into a ball in your hand. This is messy!
- Drop the truffle balls onto the plate with the cocoa mixture and roll them until they are covered.
- Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Melt the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave.
- Using a toothpick in the top of a truffle dip it in the melted chocolate, covering it completely.
- Place it on a wax paper lined baking sheet.
- If you are adding chile powder or sprinkles for decoration, do it before moving on to the next truffle.
- Repeat with the remaining truffles.
- Store tightly covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve or give them as gifts.
- Blend chiles in a blender until they are a powder.
Creamy Pecan Praline Patties
Yields 24 large pralines | Time: 15 minutes
Creamy, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth pralines are so easy to make that you may find yourself whipping up a batch several times during the year! Toasting the pecans intensifies the crunch and flavor.
- 1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans
- 3 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, optional
- 24 pecan halves
- Toast pecans in the oven by spreading them in a single layer in a baking pan and baking them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown, stirring often for six minutes or so.
- Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and cream to a heavy saucepan. Stir until the sugar is melted and the mixture is liquid.
- Add the pecans and heat, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 238 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool without stirring until the temperature reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the vanilla and chipotle and stir briskly until it becomes creamy and changes color to a light tan. (Tip: Spray the stand mixer with baking release spray and use the paddle on high for a minute or so.)
- Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture and form into patties.
- Press a pecan half on the top of each.
- Let cool completely — overnight if possible. The texture gets creamier as it stands.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot.
Note: If the mixture cools too much and becomes difficult to beat, add a tablespoon of boiling water and beat it in. That should fix it.