Last weekend, as is our yearly tradition, my Mom, Sis, and I braved the cold and gathered together in Grandma's kitchen. By the time I arrived, all bundled up, my arms filled with trays of peanut butter balls and turtles assembled the night before, chocolate was already melting in the double boilers. The smell of grandma's house and the sound of my family made it finally feel like Christmas time. I love candy making day. I thought I'd share a "taste" (no pun intended) of our candy making process with some photos I took of the day. If you click on any of the photos, you can view the entire set of candy photos on my flickr account.
To break down the 6 hrs of candy fun into a manageable post, here are the 3 candy making techniques we use to make our chocolates.
1. Coating (Pretzels, Peanut Butter Balls, Coconut Balls, Maple Walnut Balls, Peanut Brittle, Ritz Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Brazil Nuts, Turtles)
2. Dipping into cups (Mixed nuts, Macademia nuts, Haystacks, Yogurt Coated Raisins, Crushed Heath)
3. Pouring as a sheet and breaking (White Peppermint, Colored Peppermint, Crushed Oreo)
Melting the Chocolate
Of course all three start with the melting of the chocolate in a double boiler. Melting the chocolate in a double boiler as opposed to a pan keeps it from scalding and sticking to the pan. Keeping the pot of melted chocolate over the warm water while you work also helps to keep it from cooling too quickly as you coat your treats. We toss in 1 tb of parawax per every pound of chocolate that we melt. This helps firm up the chocolate and makes it look pretty and shiny when it cools.
Some of the treats that we coat don't require assembly before we coat them, examples being pretzels, ritz sandwiches, and brazil nuts. Things like peanut butter balls, though, should be rolled up and laid out in rows onto wax paper before you begin to melt your chocolate. If you don't have them rolled and ready, your chocolate will be cooled and hardened before you get them coated. We generally take care of this the night before and that gives them a chance to set up a bit and cool before we dunk em in the chocolate.
We cover the entire table with wax paper because all the coated chocolates need to dry before they can be put into the pretty little candy cups.
Once the wax paper is laid out and the chocolate melted, we bring the entire double boiler over to the table and set it on a hot pad to begin coating. Generally we toss a handful of pretzels in at a time, stir them gently, then fish them out with the fork.
A swirly tipped utensil is helpful for fishing out ritz sandwiches and the loop is what we use for the balls. You can use whatever works for you, of course, anything that gets the job done. Once you get all of your treats coated, let them cool completely on the wax paper so the chocolate can harden before you attempt to place them into the cups.
Dipping into cups
It's a good idea to lay out your candy cups into rows before you begin to melt your chocolate. This way you're sure to fill the cups before the chocolate cools. Mostly for dipping, we do a variety of chopped nuts in different types of chocolates. Once your chocolate is completely melted on the stove, toss in the nuts and stir it up. The nuts to chocolate ratio is completely personal preference. Just add what you like!
Once you're satisfied with the mix bring your double boiler over to the wax paper, set it on a hot pad, then use a spoon to fill the cups. Once the cups cool completely and harden, it's easy to peel the cup away and munch on the hardened hunk of chocolate and nuts.
Pouring a sheet and breaking
Make sure you have a nice large space of wax paper laid out. Then, just like you did with the cups, melt your chocolate on the stove completely and toss in the crushed peppermint or oreos. Once everything is mixed up nicely, carry just the pot holding the melted chocolate over to the wax paper. You can turn off the burner and leave the pot filled with water on the stove. Pour the mixed up chocolate slowly out onto the wax paper. Let it cool completely and harden, then peel it up off of the wax paper and break it apart into bite size chunks that fit into your candy cups.
Once we finish coating, dipping, and pouring our chocolates we usually take a lunch break and chat a bit while everything cools. Mom brings home made soup and bread and grandpa joins us for a bite.
Once all the chocolate has hardened we place them into cups, trimming off excess chocolate so that everything fits nicely. Grandma begins to assemble the boxes while we do this job.
After that we just move in a circle around the table grabbing one or two of each chocolate, filling up the bottom layer of the box. Once we fill it as packed as it can get, we lay a paper down and do it again. By the time we're done each box is filled with two delicious layers of chocolates. Oh, they look so pretty all stacked together in their colorful candy cups.
As pretty as this is, and as much as I love candy day, I have to admit, by the time it comes to boxing the candy I'm completely ready to be done. We make a large volume and variety of chocolates so the entire process takes us a while. It's totally worth it, though, to keep our family tradition going and to see happy faces when we give away the candy.
And that's my family's Christmas candy tradition.
***Side Note: Thanks to Rachel at One Pretty Thing for featuring me on her Christmas Roundup.***