Holiday Book Reviews – 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes

Fudge

I don’t know about you, but this is the week when my Christmas shopping always begins in earnest. So, for the second year in a row, I’m bringing you three book reviews to help you cross a few names off your list.

I received a review copy of 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes from Robert Rose Inc. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

My mother’s aunts were tiny women with very strong arms. That’s because they were raised in an era without stand mixers or food processors to help them in the kitchen. One of the things they used their strength to make, in quantities great enough for the whole extended family, was the French Canadian specialty sucre à la crème. This simple fudge was something we looked forward to at Christmastime and my great-aunt Leona taught me how to make it when I was a teenager. Until very recently, sucre à la crème and truffles were the only candy recipes in my repertoire.

Enter Jane Sharrock’s 300 Best Homemade Candy Recipes. I’ve been curious about candy making for some time now, so when I got the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at it. Sharrock’s cookbook covers most of the categories of candy you can find in a kitchen and some, like lollipops, that I never dreamed you could make at home.

Sharrock began collecting candy recipes when her mother gave her a treasured pressure cooker that was perfect for making candy, along with a small booklet of candy recipes. Sharrock went on to try to preserve the candy recipes from earlier generations, which lends her cookbook an air of nostalgia. Reading through the recipes, I get the sense that these candies populated the tables at church bazaars and community potlucks, in the days before mass-produced sweets took their place.

This means that for the most part, the recipes use ingredients that you’d easily find at the supermarket. The few specialty items, like candy coating, can be found at baking supply stores. But, just because these recipes are old fashioned, doesn’t mean that they’re all unsophisticated. The pralines, divinity, and nougats would make a sweets table shine and even recipes that were thought of as homey, like taffy, seem very impressive these days. You won’t learn skills like tempering chocolate or making marshmallows from scratch, but once you’ve mastered this book, taking your candy making to the next level will be a breeze.

What I like best about this book is that it teaches you a wide range of candy making skills, includes troubleshooting advice and photo demonstrations, and even guides you through the steps you’d need to take if you were trying to recreate a favourite candy without the recipe.

I think after working through some of Sharrock’s categories of sweets, next year’s holiday treat boxes will be the best they’ve ever been. In the meantime, I’m going to give Sharrock’s tuxedo fudge another try. I forgot to put the coconut into the bottom layer and added it to the top, instead. As a result, the bottom is creamy, but the top is a bit dry. Following the instructions should make my next attempt perfect. Thanks to Robert Robert Rose, Inc., I’m sharing the recipe with you. If you’re still on holidays next week, it would be a great way to start filling your freezer with goodies before the New Year’s resolutions set in.

Boxed

Tuxedo Fudge

Makes about 3 1/2 lbs (1.75 kg)

8- or 9-inch (20 or 23 cm) square pan, lined with parchment or buttered
2-quart heavy saucepan
Candy thermometer

Coconut Layer
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter or margarine
1/4 cup (60 mL) light (white) corn syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Layer
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter or margarine
1/4 cup (60 mL) light (white) corn syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) pecans, in large pieces (optional)

1. To make the coconut layer: In heavy saucepan over low to medium-low heat, bring the sugar, salt, butter, corn syrup and milk to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan. Remove the lid. Cook, stirring only as needed to prevent scorching, to the soft ball stage (234°F to 240°F/112°C to 116°C, with 236°F/113°C recommended).
2. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla. Beat by hand until the candy begins to thicken and lose its gloss. Stir in the coconut. Spread the candy into the prepared pan. Cool at room temperature while making the chocolate layer.
3. To make the chocolate layer: In a clean saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa until well blended. Add the salt, butter, corn syrup and milk. Bring to a boil over low to medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve the sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Remove the lid. Cook, stirring only as needed to prevent scorching, to the soft ball stage (234°F to 240°F/112°C to 116°C, with 236°F/113°C recommended).
4. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla. Beat by hand until the candy begins to thicken and lose its gloss. Stir in the pecans, if desired. Spread the chocolate layer over the coconut layer in the pan. Cool and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the sweet tooth, the nostalgic, and the cook who wants to extend their gifts from the kitchen beyond cookies and squares.

You can find the rest of this year’s reviews here and here..

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