MANY people steer away from making candy because they find the thought of candy thermometers and boiling sugar intimidating.
It's true, cooked candies can be tricky to make, but there are lots of confections that don't require precise temperature measurement. Here are three delicious recipes for Christmas sweets that aren't difficult; they're perfect to serve with coffee after a holiday meal and make nice hostess gifts if you package them in pretty boxes tied with festive ribbons (craft stores have loads of great holiday-themed containers).
¼ cup butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons liquid honey
1 ?3 cup all-purpose flour, slightly heaped
1¼ cups mixture of chopped candied cherries, candied peel and chopped blanched almonds
8 oz dark chocolate (not unsweetened)
Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper (if you butter the sheets lightly first the parchment stays in place). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy saucepan stir and melt together the butter, sugar and honey over medium-low heat. Remove pan from heat and stir in the flour and fruit-nut mixture until it forms a smooth paste.
Drop teaspoons of the mixture three inches apart on the lined cookie sheets; flatten with a spoon. Bake for eight-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let sit for a couple of minutes until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack. When the Florentines have cooled, melt the chocolate in a metal bowl placed over simmering water. With a pastry brush paint a generous layer of chocolate on the underside of each Florentine. Just before the chocolate hardens make wavy lines in it with the tines of a fork. Let chocolate set until completely firm. Store cookies in an airtight tin between layers of waxed or parchment paper. Makes about 20.
Spiked Chocolate Truffles
8 oz premium quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
¾ cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flavouring of choice (Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Frangelico, Kahlua, cognac, rum or bourbon all work well)
1 cup coating material: sifted cocoa powder, sifted icing sugar, fine toasted coconut, finely chopped toasted nuts or finely shaved chocolate (choose a coating that compliments the flavour of the truffle)
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium stainless steel bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate; allow to stand for five minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth; stir in the alcohol. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator until mixture is firm (several hours or overnight).
Place the chosen truffle coating on a plate. With a melon-baller or small spoon scoop out balls of the truffle mixture and roll them in the coating (they don't have to be perfectly round, they're supposed to look like real truffles). Place coated truffles on a parchment-lined baking sheet or shallow baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Store truffles in the refrigerator.
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 ?3 cup whipping cream
1 tsp instant coffee granules
2 tsp vanilla
4 oz white chocolate, chopped (don't use white chocolate chips, they don't melt well)
Chocolate-covered coffee beans for garnish
Small foil candy cups (available at craft stores)
In a metal bowl over simmering water melt the semisweet chocolate with the whipping cream, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl dissolve the coffee in the vanilla; whisk into the chocolate mixture.
Pour into small candy cups to fill halfway; place filled cups in a shallow baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate until firm. Melt the white chocolate in a metal bowl over simmering water and pour a layer over each of the firm chocolate cups. Let harden slightly, then top each with a chocolate-covered coffee bean. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 21.