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recipe: Christmas candy (peppermint bark, truffles, toffee)

December 11, 2009

The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear . . .”

That’s what Buddy the Elf says. However, I’m not the best singer – sure, I can carry a tune but I work in a music college so my singing would not hold a candle to our vocalists’ talent. Therefore, I figured out another way to spread Christmas cheer and do a little something for my co-workers, faculty and teaching fellows/assistants. For two days straight, I made batches of candy – truffles, toffee and peppermint bark. My kitchen was a mess, my hands smelled sugary for quite a while, but it was worth it to play “Santa” at work and give a little Christmas blessing.

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Easy Peppermint Bark

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Ingredients

  • one regular-sized package of white chocolate/almond bark
  • one bag of peppermint candy (the red & white round ones that come individually wrapped); I used 3/4 of a 5.25 oz bag
  • 2 cups of crisp rice cereal (I used Rice Krispies), divided

1.  Crush up the peppermint candy and set aside. (I unwrapped the candy pieces and double-bagged in a ziploc bag. Then, I used a hammer to crush the candy.)
2.  Break the white chocolate bark into pieces (the kind I used came in blocks attached to each other) and put in a saucepan.
3.  Turn the heat on low and “cook” the pieces until melted, about 8 minutes long. Stir every so often, to make sure the chocolate does not burn.
4.  Once the chocolate has melted all the way, pour 1 cup of the crisp rice into the saucepan and mix well. Then add the other cup of crisp rice and mix again.
5.  On a baking sheet lined with wax paper, spread the chocolate mixture evenly with a spatula, then sprinkle the peppermint candy on the mixture. Use your fingers to press the candy onto the chocolate, so the candy won’t come off when you break the chocolate up.
6.  Put the chocolate in the fridge for 30 minutes, then break apart into various-sized pieces. Store in an air-tight container.

Chocolate Truffles (adapted from the Joy of Baking)

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • for the coating: dutch-processed cocoa powder, unsweetened coconut and pecan bits
  • extras (espresso powder and almond extract)

1.  Chop the chocolate into small pieces, place in a bowl and set aside.
2.  In a saucepan, heat the cream and the butter over medium heat. (For one batch, I put 1 tbsp espresso powder during this step). Bring the mixture to a boil and immediately pour into the bowl with the chocolate pieces. Let this stand for 5 minutes.
3.  Stir the mixture with a whisk until smooth. (I also added 1 tsp almond extract.) Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for several hours, or overnight until firm.
4.  When ready, set up several plates with your coatings. Then take out the chocolate and using a melon baller, spoon or your fingers, take a small piece and roll it into a ball. Coat the ball in either cocoa powder, pecan bits or shredded coconut. Place each truffle onto a plate lined with wax paper. Cover and refrigerate again until firm.
5.  Bring the truffles to room temperature before serving.

(note: I made several batches of these truffles – one plain, one with espresso powder & almond extract, and one with extra espresso powder only.)

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Easy Toffee (adapted from All Recipes)

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Ingredients

  • unsalted saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • pecan bits

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Line a cookie sheet (one with raised sides) with the saltine crackers.
3.  In a saucepan, combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes (I start timing once I saw “foam” bubbles around the edges of the saucepan). Immediately pour the mixture over the crackers and spread carefully to cover the crackers completely.
4.  Put the crackers in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and sprinkle the pecan bits over the crackers. (I also lightly sprinkled the crackers with sea salt flakes – a good complement to the sweetness!)
5.  Cool complete in room temperature and then break the toffee into pieces.

(note: I read some of the suggestions/comments people had on All Recipes and one person suggested crushing up more crackers and covering the cracker squares with it. This helps to soak up some of the butter and it creates an interesting texture for the toffee. I made one batch as directed by the recipe and one with this suggestion – I like the crushed up cracker version better.)

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