Homemade treats are some of the best gifts you can give during the holidays! Try something new this season from barks and candy to cookies and bars, we’ve got something for everyone on your list.
Cookies, Bars & Brownies
Basic Shortbread Recipe
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon desired flavoring
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350º F. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar until smooth. Mix in desired flavoring. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet.
Layered Shortbread Bars
Basic Shortbread Recipe
1 teaspoon Velvet Cream 2 Fold Vanilla
6 oz Guittard Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 pound Peanut Butter Candy Center
1/2 pound Peter’s Caramel
2-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 cup peanuts
1/2 pound Cocoa Lite Candy Coating
Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper.
Prepare shortbread recipe, using Velvet Cream 2 Fold Vanilla. Press shortbread into prepared pan. Press chocolate chips into shortbread and bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Combine peanut butter candy center, caramel and warm in microwave 20-30 seconds at a time to soften enough to be able to mix together. Add heavy cream as needed to thin mixture to a spreadable consistency. Spread on cooled cookie layer. Top with peanuts, pressing into caramel peanut butter layer.
Melt cocoa lite candy coating (learn how here) and spread evenly on top of peanuts. Allow chocolate layer to set. Remove bar from pan and cut into desired size pieces.
Mix and bake shortbread cookies according to basic recipe, using desired flavoring. Bake, cool and roll in powdered sugar. If using Snow White Non-Melting Sugar, this can be done even while cookies are still warm.
*Emulsions have a more potent, robust flavor, that won’t “bake-out” when exposed to heat. They are water-based. An excellent choice for flavoring all of your homemade baked goods, including cookies, cakes, sweet breads and pastries as well as frostings, glazes, fondants, fillings, cream centers and other confectionary items. Use this professional strength flavoring instead of an extract in any recipe. Emulsion is sugar and gluten free.
**King Arthur Snow White Non-Melting Sugar
- Won’t melt or disappear atop baked goods, including straight from the oven.
- Confectioners’-type sugar superior for topping all baked goods and desserts.
- Holds up under plastic; even atop icing or whipped cream.
Flavor buttercream with peppermint flavoring and sandwich between chocolate cookies. Buttercream can be placed in piping bag fitted with open star decorating tip to make filling more festive looking.
Experiment with different flavorings as desired.
Barks are the easiest and most economical candy you can make. They are made by mixing a crunchy food product with melted candy coating or melted and tempered real chocolate. Try one of the listed combinations, or follow the General Bark recipe below to create your own.
Melt candy coating (learn how here). Stir in crunchy food product. Spread into approximately 11 x 14-inch rectangle parchment paper or silicone mat or Break-up Sheet. Cut into squares when “just set”, or if using a Break-Up Sheet, break apart when completely set.
2 pounds White Candy Coating
1 1/2 cups Toasted Coconut
1 1/4 cups Mini Marshmallows
1 1/2 cups Pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup dried pineapple*, chopped fine
1/2 cup dried papaya*, chopped fine
*substitute favorite dried fruit(s) equaling 1 cup
2 pounds Super White Candy Coating, melted
15-20 drops LorAnn Buttered Popcorn Flavoring
6 cups Wabash Valley Farms Lady Finger Popcorn*, popped
1 cup gummy candy
1/4 pound Cotton Candy Crunch
1/2 pound Pink Candy Coating, melted
10-15 drops LorAnn Cotton Candy Flavoring
Spread popcorn out on a lined cookie sheet, making sure to remove all un-popped kernels. Flavor melted Super White Candy Coating with Buttered Popcorn Flavoring and fold in sorted popcorn and gummies. Spread mixture out on parchment paper, immediately sprinkle with Cotton Candy Crunch, while coating is still wet. Flavor Pink Candy Coating with Cotton Candy Flavoring. Using a squeeze bottle or parchment cone, drizzle across top of bark. Allow bark to set, then break into pieces.
*Lady Finger Popcorn is perfect for this bark. If you like small, hulless, tender popcorn, you definitely will want to try this one!
*Some recipes taken with permission from Autumn Carpenter’s Book, All About Candy Making. All rights reserved.
Melt the orange and butterscotch candy coating together. Add flavoring and pumpkin pie spice, stirring to combine. Fold in croquantine flakes until evenly distributed. Spread into approximately 11 x 14-inch rectangle on parchment paper or silicone mat or Break-up Sheet. Cut into squares when “just set”, or if using a Break-Up Sheet, break apart when completely set.
TIP: Storing barks — Unless otherwise noted in the recipe, bark can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one month.
Measure out cereal into a large bowl. Melt candy coating (learn how here) and pour over cereal, stirring and folding until cereal is completely coated. Fold in peppermint chips. In a large zipped top bag or covered container, add 1 cup powdered sugar. Pour cereal mixture into bag/container. Seal and shake to coat. Add more powdered sugar as necessary. Spread mixture out on parchment paper or cookie sheet to cool. Once completely cool, store at room temperature in airtight container.
Melt peanut butter wafers in a microwave safe bow. Stir in soft caramel until completely combined. (Microwave in 10 second intervals if needed.) Add tiny crisp rice and gently stir until combined. Spread mixture into parchment lined 9×13 pan and pack tightly into an even layer. Let set at room temperature until firm. (May be placed in freezer to speed up process.) Cut into desired size pieces. Prepare work area with additional parchment paper. Dip candy pieces in melted candy coating (learn how here), tapping off excess and place on parchment paper. Leave until set or place in freezer to speed up process if necessary.
Grease or line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. Melt butterscotch and 1/2 pound cocoa lite candy coating together (learn how here). Stir in tiny crisp rice. Spread evenly into pan. Allow to set at room temperature. Melt the remaining milk chocolate coating. Spread over the mixture in the pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars.
*Recipe taken with permission from Autumn Carpenter’s Book, All About Candy Making. All rights reserved.
Molded & Filled Candy
If desired, paint details. Melt candy coating (learn how here). Pour into a squeeze bottle. Squeeze the candy into a clean, dry mold cavity starting at the top rim, making sure the entire cavity (especially the sides) is covered with the coating. Continue filling all the cavities in this manner. Turn the mold over and empty the excess candy onto parchment paper or silicone mat. Excess candy may be remelted. Invert the mold and use a spatula to scrape all excess candy off the surface of the mold until the top rim of the cavities appears neat. Let candy set up at room temperature. Put desired filling into cavity, leaving 1/8″ clearance. With melted coating in squeeze bottle, squeeze candy over filling, starting at the outer edge of the cavity to insure proper sealing. Place in freezer. When the mold is cloudy and the candy feels cold, invert the mold and the candy will drop from the mold.
Ready-to-use candy centers are available in several flavors and are simple to use. Some flavors include: Peanut butter, butter pecan, amaretto, peppermint, orange, lemon, raspberry, coconut dough, plus many more.
Dry Fondant is a great and easy way to make candy centers. Simply bring 2 tablespoons whipping cream and 6 tablespoons butter to the boiling point. Stir in dry fondant and knead with the liquid. Add flavor, nuts, fruit fillings, icing fruits, coloring or whatever is desired. Roll into balls and dip.
Invertase is an enzyme that is commonly used to make liquid centers and invert sugar in candy making. When added to a candy center in small amounts, in breaks down the sugars creating a softer candy center. Add more invertase and the result would be a liquefied candy center, such as a cherry cordial.
Prepared Candy Center using Dry fondant Recipe
1 teaspoon LorAnn Blueberry Emulsion
Prepared Candy Center using Dry fondant Recipe
1 teaspoon LorAnn Hazelnut Emulsion
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
General Candy Information
Clear Molds vs. White Molds
The clear plastic candy molds are easiest to use for molding candy coating and chocolate because of their flexibility and because they can be checked on the underside to see how the finished product will look. Clear molds are generally not dishwasher safe, and cannot be used for hard candy recipes because they do not withstand the heat.
The white plastic molds are made to withstand higher temperatures and are ideal for hard candy making. They can also be used for molding candy coating and chocolate, and for baking molded cookies (maximum oven temperature for the white plastic molds is 350º F).
Using Candy Molds
Use food approved molds that are slightly flexible allowing for easy release of the finished candy. Make sure molds are clean and dry before using. Greasing or spraying the mold is not necessary unless the recipe instructions include greasing or spraying the candy mold. There is no need to wash the mold between use, as the chocolate will come out clean. When finished with the mold, hand wash in hot water and dry immediately.
Using Squeeze Bottles
Squeeze bottles are one of the easiest ways to fill molds with candy coating. Following the melting instructions, melt candy coating in a microwave-safe bowl with a spout or squared corners for ease of pouring. Pour melted coating into the squeeze bottle. Depending on the size of mold cavities to be filled, cut the end of the tip slightly for ease in filling molds.
Cleaning a Squeeze Bottle
Take the cap off and wash in hot soapy water. Pour the remaining candy coating from the squeeze bottle onto parchment paper. Lay squeeze bottle on its side in the freezer for a few minutes to harden. When hard, squeeze the bottle and dump out all excess candy into an airtight container.
Leftover Candy Coating or Chocolate
Candy coating or chocolate that wasn’t used for dipping candy centers, cookies, pretzels, or other food products can be reused. Simply pour the extra coating onto parchment paper and spread into a thin layer. Once chocolate is completely hardened, break into pieces and store in an airtight container for later use.
‘How To’ Tips
Preheat oven to 350º F. Spread nuts in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the middle rack of the oven and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through until nuts are fragrant. Different nuts have different baking times depending on size and oil content. Smaller nuts and nuts with higher oil content require less baking time to toast. Once toasted, remove from oven and transfer nuts to a cool plate or pan. Allow to cool before chopping (if required for recipe).
Testing Candy Thermometer
A candy thermometer is used for cooked candies and usually has a range of 100º to 400º F. Even with the best thermometer, readings may vary from day to day, so test your thermometer each day you use it. To test the thermometer, place it in enough water to cover the base of the thermometer. Bring water to a boil. Let water boil for several minutes. Read the temperature. If it reads 212º F, cook candy to the exact degree the recipe instructs. If the reading is higher, cook candy as many degrees higher as the thermometer reads over 212º F. For example, if thermometer reads 214º F and your recipe calls for 236º F, cook to 238º F. If thermometer reads 210º F and your recipe calls for 236º F, cook candy to 234º F.