Wednesday, December 9, 2009

25GoC: Darlene Ryan + contest

Adventures in Candy-making
By: Darlene Ryan

Maybe it was because I had all my Christmas shopping done early.  Maybe it was because I’d already made three kinds of cookies and two different kinds muffins.  Maybe it was because the recipe sounded so easy and the picture looked so good.  Whatever the reason, I decided last Christmas that I was going to make Christmas candy—white chocolate peppermint bark, to be specific.  How hard could it be?  I bought English mints—two kinds—and Swiss white chocolate. 

The first step was to crush the peppermints between two sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin.  How hard could it be?  Well, unless your rolling pin is made of cast iron and you have arms like trainer Jillian Michaels on The Biggest Loser, hard. 

The mints didn’t crush, they didn’t even crack.  My rolling pin quickly ended up with a dent in the middle.  With two new sheets of waxed paper I moved the peppermints to the basement workbench and traded the rolling pin for a rubber mallet.  Now I will concede it turned into a pretty good triceps workout, but after several minutes of hammering all I’d done was crack one mint.  One.  They were obviously some kind of mutant English mints. 

However, I am nothing if not persistent.  With two more new sheets of waxed paper I attacked the mints with a hammer.  Success!  Unfortunately the top of the work bench now looked like the surface of the moon and there seemed to be some crushed bits of wood in with the crushed mints.  But they were crushed and half a container of filler handled the divots in the top of the workbench. 

In the kitchen I melted the white chocolate in a bowl over hot water and gently stirred in the crushed mints.  Well, maybe not gently.  I had to use the big wooden spoon and two hands.  The resulting mixture didn’t look anything like the picture in the recipe.  For one thing it was the color of pea soup with flecks of red (and, okay, the occasional wood chip.)  It smelled, well, peculiar, and it wouldn’t spread in the pan.  It wouldn’t pour into the pan.  It lay in the bowl like some blob from outer space. 

Somehow, defying the laws of physics and chemistry, the mints and the chocolate had created something that was harder than a bowl of cement, harder than those uncrushed mints had been.  I couldn’t get it out of the bowl with a spoon.  I couldn’t get it out with two spoons, and a spatula.  It took boiling water, two barbeque forks and a large serrated knife to pry the blob out of the bowl onto the counter.  I tried to at least cut a slice off of it.  I would have had better luck slicing a bowling ball.

“It looks like something Sam hacked up,” my daughter commented, Sam being our neighbors’ dog.  She was right.  I dropped the blob in the garbage can, put on my coat and headed for the candy shop at the mall.  (No, I didn’t pass off store-bought candy as my own.  I swear.)

Last week I found this very simple-sounding recipe for dark chocolate almond bark.  No, I didn’t even look in the bin of almonds at the market.  I didn’t even buy a taste of the Dutch chocolate.  But I did buy some chili paste and dried peppers.  Because I found a recipe for tortilla chips too.  Has anyone ever made their own tortilla chips?  Really, how hard could it be?

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Leslie said...

LOL, I can totally relate! My best friend and I found a recipe for these chocolate mint Christmas cookies. We followed all the directions, and they even smelled good while they were baking. When we opened the oven, they had transformed into strange mutant cookies. We ate some anyway, and they were actually pretty good, but to this day we refer to them as the swamp cookies.
This year we are going to make a gingerbread house. It should be interesting.
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traveler said...

I enjoyed your lovely post today. I try to duplicate wonderful recipes which look so delectable and am not always successful so I go back to the easiyer ones like brownies and fudge which are always a hit. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Bianca said...

really enjoyed this post!

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~The Book Pixie said...

Oh dear! lol. I've never really tried making candy but I have had some other cooking 'experiments' that didn't go so well. :P

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Noma said...

I've made homemade holiday candies before. I've made white chocolate pepermint bark. I understand because it feels like nothing is happening whhen you are smashing your peppermint with a rolling pin. Your arms hurt like crazy.Me I ended up using something hard to smash the peppermint.
So I just stick to the basics making homemade cookies.

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kaymf said...

what a great post.

L said...

I've definitely had my own share of baking disasters!

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