Holiday Candy?
November 5, 2009 3:00 PM   Subscribe

Poor as Dirt Filter: Best Candy Recipes for Gift Giving?

One year I did caramels, which were a great hit (and cheap to make) but I'm looking to branch out -- so I'm asking for your favorite candy recipes. They needn't be specifically related to the holidays, but if they are, that's cool too.

posted by unlucky.lisp to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
Chocolate-dipped pretzels with various toppings (for this one, either get the "chocolate" candymaking melties or add a little paraffin to regular semi-sweet to help it harden)
Fudge-- got some great suggestions when I asked this question.
Nonpareils-- basically just dollops of chocolate on a layer of hundreds-and-thousands, but you can use red and green for a festive touch.
Peppermint bark-- layer of chocolate, layer of white chocolate, some crushed candy canes on top, you're good to go.
posted by Bardolph at 3:14 PM on November 5, 2009

I'm definitely watching this thread - candy-making has always fascinating me, and I've bookmarked a ton or recipes but made very few. That said, here are some that stand out to me (never tried most of them, so no guarantees, though).

English Toffee
Espresso Caramels
The Chocolate Guormand's entire site (check out his info pages as well)
Chocolate-Almond Buttercruch toffee
Chocolate Candy cups (you can skip the wrappers and get a mold instead)

Then, of course, there are always truffles - I've always been completely intimidated, though.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:18 PM on November 5, 2009

I've been giving away caramel corn for a few years now. People squeal when they get it, and one relative has been known to open his and eat it all immediately. (I started giving him two big packages of it, so he has one to save.) I used a recipe very similar to this one, but I use almost twice as much popped corn. The resulting caramel corn is lighter, less sweet, and I like it better. Of course it stretches the costly ingredients a good deal, which sounds like a plus for you!

I have also made chocolate covered toffee, which was well received. Here's a pretty straightforward recipe; I like to spread it thinner, which makes the pieces thinner and more delicate. I also use tempered chocolate rather than the melted chocolate chip process they recommend. If you don't want to temper the chocolate, just spinkle the warm chocolate liberally with sliced toasted almonds and press them in. That will help keep the melty, untempered chocolate off people's hands.

Peanut brittle is a good, relatively cheap candy --- no costly chocolate or cream, and peanuts are inexpensive. Of course, you can also make more exotic brittles. I once made a chile-pumpkin brittle with salty spiced toasted pumpkin seeds, and it was a big hit! I don't have a recipe handy, but brittles are a fairly simple process; any good old-fashioned cookbook will have a recipe, or you can find a simple one online.

This last thing I'll mention is not, strictly speaking, candy, but it's so darned good that I'm including it anyway. My new Christmas standard is butterscotch sauce [self-link]. My mother now demands it every Christmas and birthday, and hoards it even though she knows I'll make more of it anytime she asks.
posted by Elsa at 3:20 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Microwave Peanut Brittle. I make it every year and it never fails. People love it. As Elsa pointed out, you can make more exotic brittles too. It is fast, easy, and there's little mess. Everything hardens, so you just soak the dish you cook it in to clean up.

Also, bourbon balls. They get better the longer they sit.

Dark chocolate peppermint bark...that ones pretty easy, just temper some chocolate, pour, add broken up candy canes.

I make these three things every year for our festivities. Yum!
posted by fyrebelley at 3:34 PM on November 5, 2009

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips
posted by wiretap at 3:39 PM on November 5, 2009

My family made and gave out caramels for years. It's basically just butter and sugar, cooked in a big pot to an exact temp, and then poured into a 9x13 pan to cool. Then you cut them up and wrap them in wax paper. This recipe looks similar.
posted by ropeladder at 3:42 PM on November 5, 2009

And incidentally, this is an INCREDIBLY NICE GIFT. You could certainly change your introductory "Poor as Dirt Filter: Best Candy Recipes for Gift Giving?" to "Awesomest Giftgiver Ever: Best Candy Recipes for Gift Giving?" In fact, I think you've inspired me: this year, in addition to giving everyone else some candy, I'm going to make up a special gift basket of candy for myself.
posted by Elsa at 3:48 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Homemade marshmallows.
Lots of suggestions in the comments for variations.
posted by scribbler at 3:49 PM on November 5, 2009

Nigella Lawson introduced me to Hokey Pokey (also known as honeycomb). Sugar, dark corn syrup, and baking soda are the only ingredients, and it's unbelievably good. I find people like it because it's not the expected "homemade" kind of candy.
posted by xingcat at 4:02 PM on November 5, 2009 [5 favorites]

Chocolate covered pretzels are always a good choice. One year I made chocolate covered Oreos for a relative who is obsessed with Oreos; they were just as easy as pretzels.

I cannot vouch for these recipes, but here's a couple more ideas:
Chocolate Toffee Cracker Candy

And what about some homemade hot cocoa mix to go with the homemade marshmallows?
posted by Janta at 4:15 PM on November 5, 2009

If you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary (and slightly more healthy) - my grandma used to make something like these candies from dried fruit every year and we loved them!
posted by patheral at 4:23 PM on November 5, 2009

I've had GREAT success with peppermint meringues as gifts. I just used a really basic meringue recipe, like this one, and added peppermint extract (careful, a little goes a long way). Delicious, easy, and all you really have to pay for are the eggs. You can sprinkle them with green and red sugar and package them in a little cardboard box - they look beautiful and smell great too.

A note about making meringues: when you separate the egg whites from the yolks, be very careful. If you get any yolk in to your whites, the eggs will not whip up properly and the meringues will be flat. Also, make sure the bowl you are using is very clean - if there's any oil at all on it, it won't work. It helps to have an electric mixer, but I have actually made meringues with only a fork - it's doable! Just takes a while.
posted by Cygnet at 4:23 PM on November 5, 2009

You know, this thread has inspired me. I think I'll make some meringues right now - as a surprise for my sweetheart who arrives home from a conference tonight :)
posted by Cygnet at 4:35 PM on November 5, 2009

Chocolate Truffles are easy and delicious.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2009

Also check you local papers food section (if you still have one or check online) when it gets near the holidays most food sections will give recipes for sweets that is where I got this one for Patel Mints though it was given for Easter you can change the color and use it for Christmas.
posted by CollegeNelson at 5:04 PM on November 5, 2009

xingcat's suggestion of hokey-pokey is a good one, especially since it's an unusual candy. If you're comparing recipes, it's helpful to know that it's also called honeycomb, sponge candy, seafoam, and cinder candy. It's great as it is or coated with tempered chocolate.
posted by Elsa at 5:06 PM on November 5, 2009

Homemade pocky. Omg, yumyumyum.
posted by moonshine at 5:36 PM on November 5, 2009

I will tell you fresh homemade scotch kisses are just amazing. Yum!
posted by beccaj at 5:45 PM on November 5, 2009

One of my former coworkers brought in Oreo balls for the holidays, which might be more on the cookie end of the continuum, but oh man so good.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2009

Candied or spiced nuts are good. I usually use pecans, put in a frying pan with butter, brown sugar, salt, pepper until coated and toasted. (I serve these fresh and hot but I have relatives who give a similar thing for Christmas.) There are lots of variations online, some more spicy, some more sweet.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:33 PM on November 5, 2009

One of my favorite candies to make when I was younger and poor (and wanted something delicious and quick) was to melt almond bark down in a ghetto double-boiler, mix in a bunch of peanuts or pretzels, and then spoon it out onto aluminum foil to cool off and harden. Almond bark can be purchased cheaply in huge bricks in the baking section of the store, and requires no other prep than melting and mixing. Once you spoon them out, you can even sprinkle with colored sugars or shaved chocolate.
posted by scarykarrey at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2009

Seconding peppermint bark. It's way overpriced to buy but reasonably inexpensive to make. I gave it last year (along with caramels) and everyone seemed to love it. Plus I learned how to temper chocolate, which is a good candy skill to have.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 7:22 PM on November 5, 2009

I totally forgot about the Oreo balls that Metroid baby recommended - I made them with a white chocolate coating once, and EHMAGAWD. They blew me away. Maybe that's because I'm a sucker for cream cheese, oreos, and the combination of the two (I've been known to spread cream cheese on top of the oreo filling and then close the oreo back up and eat it), but they were so amazing (everyone else thought so, too.) I used bakerella's recipe, which looks to be the same.

The only note of caution is, you know, cream cheese. Needs refrigeration.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:47 PM on November 5, 2009

In reference to the candy corn idea, does anybody have a good source for popcorn? I've yet to find any locally as delicious and fresh as the popcorn my former paperboy sold me years ago (when he was in the Boy Scouts). That stuff was otherworldly -- nearly every kernel popped and the taste was insanely addictive.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:01 PM on November 5, 2009

Nthing Hokey Pokey! It's fun and easy. You'll definitely need a candy thermometer though. I don't have one and it was a bit tricky. I had to through out my first two batches.

I have also made these Fleur de Sel Caramels for gifts. They are super easy and so delicious. I just use sea salt instead of fancy expensive Fleur de Sel. Wrapping them in wax paper is a bit messy and time consuming, but not too bad. These were easier to do without a candy thermometer, though the recipe does call for one. Google "firm ball stage" to see what you're looking for.
posted by apricot at 8:34 PM on November 5, 2009

If you're looking for visual inspiration, do a search for "candy" on Tastespotting. These sugar corkscrews that turned up on the front page look beautiful, though I'm not sure if they're too fragile for your purposes.

(You'll have to wade through some decidedly non-candy recipes though--I mean, asparagus?? There's some funky tagging there.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:12 PM on November 5, 2009

I don't know what this stuff is called, but it's amazingly good:

1. Melt a bunch of white chocolate in a double boiler.
2. Stir in crushed candy canes (red AND green, if possible).
3. Pour onto sheet and cool.
4. Break into pieces.

Don't plan on giving away the first batch; you'll probably finish yourself it that day.
posted by clorox at 12:40 AM on November 6, 2009

We tried the "let's make candy, it'll be fun and cheaper than buying nice presents for everyone" approach a couple of years ago, and I would recommend keeping it simple - we did a whole bunch of different stuff (chocolate/white chocolate dipped pretzels/graham crackers/potato chips/twizzlers, fudge, bon bons, sponge candy, cookies, gingerbread) and wound up spending a lot more money than we expected on ingredients & packaging. Perhaps more importantly, we spent much of December rushing and being stressed out trying to get everything made in time to mail it. Had we stuck with just one or two things I think it would have been a lot more fun.

Maybe homemade s'mores kits? You could make graham crackers & marshmallows, and throw in some nice chocolate bars - not necessarily Scharfenberger, but something a little better than Hershey's.
posted by usonian at 7:01 AM on November 6, 2009

To add to those who have suggested chocolate-dipped peanuts or pretzels, I will suggest that you try mini Ritz Bitz crackers with peanut butter filling. Dip in the melted chocolate, place on waxed paper and sprinkle with some red/green sprinkles. Mmmmm.

I'm not linking to a recipe because all the ones that I found are for regular size Ritz crackers hand-filled with peanut butter - Not me. I just use the mini already-filled Ritz Bitz (make sure not to get the cheese ones).
posted by CathyG at 1:03 PM on November 6, 2009

I wanted to add to the peppermint bark idea-but I think it's worth doing a little bit more than crushing candy canes on melted chocolate. Head to and search for it there-there's a recipe there for a three layer bark that is just amazing. Read the comments-I usually just do two layers. It has a truffle-like layer that is the bomb.

Chocolate truffles are very easy and you can do something fancy, like Earl Grey.

Trader Joes has good prices on big bars of decent chocolate.
posted by purenitrous at 9:37 AM on November 8, 2009

Bakerella's cake balls and cake pops. Simple and delicious: You make a sheet cake, crumble the whole thing into a bowl, add a whole can of cream cheese frosting, mix it all up, roll it into one-inch balls, and dip them in chocolate. Voila, done. She has lots of ideas for the cake pops (cake balls on a stick) that are completely adorable and will impress the hell out of your friends.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 5:40 PM on November 8, 2009

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