The Candy That Confectioners Make at Home
Tis the season of sweets, of cakes, cookies, and puddings. If your belly’s already bulging from holiday parties and gifts, you don’t need me to tell you what season it is.
But you can make cakes and cookies in your sleep–after all, you bake some version of them all year round. With the exception, perhaps, of Valentine’s Day, there’s no better time than December to attack a fourth category of sweets: candy.
I know there are a lot of artisan chocolates and lowbrow candy bars out there, and I totally get if you’ve already ordered pounds of candied yuzu peel or chocolate-covered pretzels and don’t want to make your own.
I, on the other hand, can never resist trying my hand at the impossible.
So I bombarded a few members of the local candy royalty with queries about homemade candy. What, I asked, were their must-make recipe recommendations for those of us who fear caramel and candy thermometers equally?
“Chocolate truffles,” responded Rhonda Kave of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, an inspired chocolatiere with two outposts on the Lower East Side.
“Chocolate truffles,” said third-generation candymaker Michael Rogak of JoMart Chocolates in Brooklyn.
“Does a hot chocolate recipe count?” said Ali Borowick Zmishlany, CEO of of Fatty Sundays, a gourmet chocolate-covered pretzel company based in Brooklyn and owned by sisters. “It’s practically liquid candy.”
While chocolate is notoriously difficult to work with–to temper, especially, you need a careful eye, a good thermometer, and an uninterrupted afternoon–both truffles and hot chocolate deliver a lot of deliciousness for a lot less frustration.
“One of the most expensive chocolates that people buy and one of the easiest things to make,” said Rogak, “is truffles.”
That’s a good start. To make your own truffles, combine equal weights of dark chocolate pieces and cream. (If you don’t have a scale, try using 1 cup of cream to 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chip-sized chocolate pieces.) “Use the very best of each of those ingredients,” said Kave.
Here’s how to make them, according to Rogak of JoMart: Put the chopped chocolate in a bowl and the cream in a saucepan. Then, scald the cream, which means bring it to a boil and then immediately take it off the stove. Pour the cream over the chocolate, then do nothing for 4 minutes. Nothing. After that, use a whisk to gently mix the stuff together in the center only. (Kave adds a dab of butter at this point too.) Once it turns shiny, dark, and uniform, set the bowl in a cool place for several hours, until thickened. You can speed this up in the fridge. After that, you’ve just got to get to the messy business of rolling the chocolate mixture into balls (coat your hands with cocoa). Store in the fridge but eat at room temperature.
Rogak mentioned using this chocolate gooey stuff for candies beyond truffles. “When you’re forming your balls, put a little piece of a nut in the inside,” he suggested. “Knock yourself out.” So I did.
Brazil Nut & Coconut Logs
Here, I toasted Brazil nuts, cooled them, then sort of molded the chocolate around each nut, forming a log, before coating the exterior in ground-up unsweetened cocoa flakes. The logs have to be stored in the fridge, just like the truffles, but they have an even more professional look to them, I think. Knock yourself out indeed!
Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
As for the “liquid candy,” here’s the most delicious, rich, not-too-sweet version from Ali of Fatty Sundays: Take 3 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate, broken into pieces, and combine in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon light brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 a cup of milk. Whisk constantly over a medium-low heat until the chocolate mixture melts and forms a smooth paste. Add 1 1/2 cups more milk and whisk until warmed through. Serve immediately, with whipped cream, and “a Fatty Sundays chocolate covered pretzel…the perfect garnish or stirrer for any hot chocolate!”
OK, this one is totally of my own creation, unsanctioned by any professional. I bought marzipan in a tube and rolled out small balls, then stuck them in piles of three. I used slivered almonds for snowmen arms and powdered sugar for a dusting of freshly fallen snow. A little remedial, but pretty cute. (You could try making your own marzipan.)
There you have it: four make-at-home candies, and now a disclaimer. With just a few days til Christmas and a whole lot to do, I didn’t want to get us in over our heads, with caramel or lollipops or fruit pâtés.
But the candy folks were actually encouraging about advancing past theses basics.
“Most of the ‘easy’ candies we make require a candy thermometer so a home cook may not be able to make those recipes on the spur of the moment if they don’t have the necessary equipment,” explained Kave, before going on to say: “I do suggest that folks get a simple, probe style candy thermometer anyway as a worthwhile addition to any well equipped kitchen.”
“There’s nothing,” echoed Rogak, “I wouldn’t recommend trying.”