The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, November 20th 2016 edition. By: Blaise Doubman
An Old-Fashioned Christmas Candy
I love old-fashioned Christmas candy! There is something so warm and comforting to me about seeing a bowl full of colorful ribbon candy in a glass dish or rainbow colored gumballs. I have so many memories of Christmas candy that whenever the season rolls around I sometimes find myself dreaming in candy. I’m a huge chocoholic, but with Christmas candy, I want chocolate to take a back seat. Just this once. I want candy that is warm, familiar and seasonal in taste. Candy that is flavored with cinnamon, clove, anise and cardamom; scents and flavors that take me right back to my childhood. I can still remember eating my way through my Grandma Deloris and Grandpa Max’s crystal bowl full of ribbon candy and yellow sanded lemon drops. Or having to present, and explain, a naked gingerbread house because I had eaten all of the adornments.
My Mom, Darla and my Grandma Barbra also enjoy Christmas candy and it is from them that I fell in love with a candy known as divinity. Divinity is a creamy confection made using stiffly beaten egg whites. Although, there are some recipes that do not call for egg whites – such as the recipe for divinity I have in my cookbook. My first experience with this candy was in Metamora, Indiana at the Little Red School House. The confectioners’ factory is gone, only the memory remains, but it was there that I first fell in love with this candy. Once my Grandma Barbra and I made this for the first time, I was skeptical. Egg whites? But, at first taste, it was love! Since then I have experimented with all types of recipes and honestly, most are hard and time consuming! I wanted a recipe that would be fairly simple and foolproof. After many trials and errors I came up with the recipe I am sharing with you here today. I love making this and passing it out for Christmas gifts. Everyone loves it and it creates a great Holiday memory!
The chopped nuts in this recipe are completely optional. If you are a fan of nuts, by all means, use them! If you are not that big of a fan, leave them out. Some people prefer the nuts stirred into the actual candy mixture, while others place the nut on top. For example, once the candy is formed and placed on the parchment paper, press a pecan half on top, or a walnut, etc. Also something that is optional is dusting the final candy with confectioners’ sugar. By dusting the candy you take away the initial stickiness of the candy while adding a hint of flavor. I am not a fan of candy thermometers; most of the people I have talked to are not either, so use the cold water test. Drizzle a little of the cooked candy into a mug with cold water and feel it. If it can be turned into a soft ball it is around 235 degrees F. If it can be turned into a hard ball it is around 250 degrees F. Follow the minutes given for the recipe and you will end up with the exact temperature needed for the recipe.
3 large egg whites
3 cups white granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
In a large bowl beat the large egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Using a hand mixer this will take several minutes. Anywhere from 5 minutes to 7 minutes. Once the egg whites are stiff, and hold their attention when the beaters are removed from the bowl, sit the bowl aside.
In a large heavy bottom saucepan, combine the white granulated sugar, light corn syrup and water. Stir this continuously until it reaches a boil. Continue stirring while the mixture boils for exactly 5 minutes. The mixture will form a hard ball when dropped in cold water.
Add the hot boiled mixture, carefully, into the stiffly beaten egg whites while beating with a hand mixer at medium speed. This is hot and dangerous work so please work carefully.
Beat in the pure vanilla extract, salt and chopped nuts, if using. Beat this mixture several more minutes until the mixture starts to hold its own shape. This will take around 5 minutes.
Drop teaspoon size amounts onto parchment paper. Allow to cool slightly before enjoying.
To store this delicate candy, place in tightly sealed plastic container at room temperature.
Ask and Answer: Donna Cronk asked if my “Tomi’s Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie” could be frozen and transformed into an ice cream pie / frozen treat. Absolutely! This would work great in the summer months when such a treat would be a cool welcome to the table. If freezing, snap on plastic pie lid and wrap well with aluminum foil. Also on the subject of that particular column, let me clarify that the location I was referring to that sells the peanut butter pies is actually called “Top Hat” which is located on Broad Street in New Castle.