Tag Archives: candy

Twenty-Five Days of Cookies: Chocolate Butter Crunch


Christmas is eighteen days (gulp) away and what better way is there to countdown to the big event than to feature a cookie recipe each day? Think of it as a cookie recipe advent calendar. And to fill that advent calendar I’m featuring twenty five of my favorite holiday cookie recipes that are sure to fill your holidays with cheer. Bake them to fill your cookie trays, bring them to a cookie swap or eat them yourself; they are guaranteed to bring about holiday joy. And if you love baking as much as I do, making them is a fun filled gift unto itself. Enjoy!

These tasty treats adapted from King Arthur Flour are more of a candy than a cookie but they are the perfect addition to any holiday cookie tray. I prefer to use bittersweet chocolate because I love the flavor contrast with the rich buttery toffee. And the nuts? Pick whichever variety you like best. I used walnuts this time around but have also used pecans or almonds. They are all good! But because this candy, be sure to use a candy thermometer and watch the temperature carefully. The syrup goes from not done to  over done in a matter of seconds.


1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole walnut halves, lightly chopped

1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

  • Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan.
  • Stir in the sugar, water and maple syrup and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming th change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it’s ready. This whole process should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts, in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Top with half the chocolate.
  • When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate.
  • Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts.
  • Wait several minutes, then gently, using the back of a spatula, press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.
  • While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.

Yield: About 24 big bite-sized pieces

Chocolate-Peppermint Fudge

photo 2-75

Fudge is the ultimate holiday treat.  Whether served as part of a dessert table or given as a hostess gift who doesn’t love fudge?  And best of all, fudge is surprisingly easy to make and since a little goes a long way, you get a lot of bang for your efforts.

Good fudge has only a few simple ingredients and because of this, I like to use the best quality cream and chocolate I can find. This is also why up until this point I had made fudge while in Albania since fresh heavy cream is all but impossible to locate.  But when I recently came into possession of one precious quart of heavy cream, I just knew I had to make fudge.

This recipe is courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine.  Their rich chocolate version is good as it is but to make my fudge a bit more festive I’ve given my confection a peppermint twist. If you want the original simply omit the peppermint extract and the crushed candy canes.  Or make both versions.  It is that good.


3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, plus  more at room temperature for buttering the thermometer and pan

3 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 teaspoon table salt

2 large peppermint candy canes, crushed

  • Lightly butter the surface of a candy thermometer and set aside.
  • Put the sugar, cream, chocolate, corn syrup, peppermint extract and salt in a large, heavy saucepan and stir with a spoon until the ingredients are moistened and combined.
  • Stirring gently and constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, 7 to 12 minutes.  Cover the saucepan and let the steam clean the sides of the pan for 2 minutes.
  • Clip the candy thermometer to the pot, being careful not to let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot, or you might get a false reading.  Let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches 236 to 238 degrees, 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the butter but do not stir the mixture.  Set the pan on a rack in the coolest part of your kitchen.  Do not disturb the pan in any way until the mixture has cooled to 110 degrees.  Depending upon the temperature of your kitchen this should take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.
  • Meanwhile line the bottom and sides of an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2 inch overhand on two opposite sides of the pan.  Butter the foil.
  • Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with the crushed candy canes then set aside.
  • Remove the candy thermometer from the fudge mixture.  Using a hand mixer, beat on high speed until it is a few shades lighter in color and thickens enough that the beaters form trails that briefly expose the bottom of the pan as they pass through, 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Pour the thickened mixture into the prepared pan, using a rubber spatula to help nudge it out of the pot, scraping the bottom but not the sides of the pot.
  • Smooth the top of the fudge with the rubber spatula then set the pan on a rack and allow the fudge to cool completely, about 2 hours.
  • Turn the fudge out of the pan onto a clean cutting board and peel off the foil.  Turn the slab of fudge right side up and cut it into 25 equal pieces.

The fudge will keep for up to 10 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yields:  25 servings

Sesame Brittle

photo 2-65

When I was in first grade my class had a lesson on cooking.  Since we were a room full of six-year olds the lesson was pretty basic.  I don’t recall what, if anything, we actually made but I remember it inspiring me to go home and cook something all by myself and that dish I remember.  I made peanut brittle.  Or at least that was my intent.  Nut brittle isn’t hard to make but somewhere along the line the six-year-old chef in me went wrong and I ended up with a gooey mess that stuck to my mom’s favorite baking pan.

I’ve had my share of cooking mistakes since that first failed candy making attempt but fortunately they haven’t involved making brittle.  A simple sugar and butter syrup, when you use a candy thermometer making brittle is actually a pretty fool-proof endeavor.  Classic peanut brittle is the standard but other nuts are nice too.  For an unexpected twist you can stir in seeds or spices instead.  I love this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine; the combination of black and white sesame seeds imparts a toasted flavor that contrasts nicely with the sweet base.  It is sure to become a holiday tradition in my family.


2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 1/2 cups toasted sesame seeds, black, white or a combination of the two

  • Line a 10 x 15 inch rimmed baking tray with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  • Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter and 2/3 cup of water in a large saucepan.  Stir until all of the sugar is wet.
  • Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook the mixture over medium-high heat without stirring until the thermometer registers 310 degrees and is tan around the edges. It should take between 12 and 16 minutes to reach this point.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and quickly remove the candy thermometer.  Stir in baking soda then the salt.  (The mixture will foam).
  • Quickly whisk in the seeds.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, tilting the pan to evenly distribute the candy mixture before it cools.****
  • Allow the candy to sit at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until it has completely set.
  • Invert the brittle onto a cutting board and use a meat mallet to break the candy into medium to small-sized pieces.
  • Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Yields:  6 cups

**** Cook’s tip:  The remnants of the candy mixture will quickly adhere to the pan and the candy thermometer as the mixture cools.  Simply add a cup or two of water to the empty pan, cover and bring to a boil. The heat and steam will loosen the mixture and make it easy to scrape down the sides and remove the stuck on candy.  Once the mixture boils place the candy thermometer in the pan and the stuck on candy will slip right off.

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