How about giving your own homemade candies this year? You know, sleek little chocolates and classy sweet bites like the pros make? Liz Gutman and Jen King are candy pros. They are the minds and the hands behind the Liddabit Sweets online store and they've written The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: Let’s talk about candy as gifts. What would be your picks? Since there’s never enough time, give us two or three things that are really easy.
Jen King: One of my favorites in the cookbook, and one of the easiest, is the buttermints. It’s four ingredients and takes as many minutes to make. It’s a great family activity, and something that little kids will love to do, almost like playing with playdough.
They package beautifully. You can put them in Mason jars or in little boxes or tins. And it’s something that you can flavor. We’ve made a few different variations; you can do the classic mint or use coffee or chocolate. You could also flavor with chili or cinnamon. The options are endless.
LRK: So these are those little mints we often see in bowls at restaurants, but I have a feeling yours are probably better than that.
Liz Gutman: Exactly, the resemblance kind of ends there. You can color them pastel or your favorite colors. Since the holidays are coming up, so you can color them however you like.
LRK: How do you make them?
JK: You mix together [butter, confectioners' sugar, milk and the flavoring], knead it a little bit, stir in whatever colors you like, roll it out, cut it, and that's it. Get the kids involved.
LG: It’s foolproof. This is a 2- to 3-minute recipe and it's something that little hands can easily do and have a lot of fun.
JK: Plus, you all already have the ingredients in your pantry or in your fridge. You don’t have to go out and buy anything crazy for it.
LRK: What about something chocolate?
JK: I would go for the buckeyes. There’s no higher special treat. It’s a creamy, peanut butter filling you roll into balls and dip most of the way in chocolate. We garnish it with a little coarse sea salt because salt makes everything better.
Also, if you don’t like or are sensitive to peanut butter you can substitute almost any other nut butter you like.
LG: We have a vegan option, too, using coconut oil.
This is very similar to the buttermints in that it’s a dump recipe. You put all the ingredients in a mixer until they're smooth. The trickiest part is tempering the chocolate. But in the book, we included a cheater’s chocolate, which doesn’t require you to temper; it’s just melted chocolate with a little oil that will set up.
LRK: Give us one "project" candy -- a candy that’s just going to blow people away.
JK: I will go with The Dorie Bar. I know Dorie Greenspan and I love her, so we named this candy bar after her. It’s a salted chocolate cookie with a salted caramel ganache, with sautéed apricots, lemon and pepper. And really, we’ve got such a great reception to it. It’s based on Dorie Greenspan but then also an idol of mine, Pierre Herme.
LRK: The great French pastry genius.
JK: He did a chocolate and lemon and apricot dessert. So this is something that is unusual enough, because of the black pepper and the apricots, but it’s a delicious combination and that’s our candy bar.
For Liz, one of the more fun projects is the Honeycomb Candy.
LG: I do love the Honeycomb Candy. It’s very unique; it’s fun to make. It’s a little tricky in terms of the temperature, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very dramatic.
It’s a sugar syrup, into which you mix a little gelatin and a little baking soda, stir, and pour out really quickly. It puffs up like a soufflé and it sets like that.
So it looks like a sponge almost, but it’s crispy when you chew it. It’s got a nice crunchy bite to it. It turns a little chewy. It’s got a nice honey flavor. If you don’t like honey, you can use maple syrup. You can use whatever you want because it’s very versatile.
Once you break it into pieces, you have to dip it into chocolate.
JK: I mean, you don’t have to, but that’s the way we sell it. That’s the way we prefer to snack on it as well.