I have a sweet tooth!
I have literally traveled to the other side of the globe for candies: purple Violet Crumbles in Australia; the sprawling Cadbury factory in New Zealand; candied ginger from Japan that stings the tongue; salty Zaan licorice in Amsterdam; pralines from Charleston’s public markets; stalks of pithy sugar cane in the Caribbean; and magnificent, hand-crafted Pakistani confections in completely unexpected flavors and ingredients.
And, don’t forget the chocolatiere on the town square in Bruges, Belgium: Dark chocolate in kilo bricks, each labeled with the percent cocoa butter and the beans’ country of origin; each brick a different shade of brown and so adamantine that I needed a hammer to bash off bits small enough to stuff into my greedy mouth. Bitter yet bittersweet; aromatic with rich cocoa butter; exotic and erotic and utterly delicious.
Given my addiction to fine candies and facing the soon-to-arrive Halloween, I wondered what is involved in making my own: A do-it-yourself Halloween! Research indicated that chocolates and marzipan are among the easiest candies to produce on the scale needed for the festivity.
No recipes harmed in making this candy
After several attempts and a modicum of success, I have determined that making chocolates is not a recipe thing. There are many different ways to make chocolates. Perhaps the easiest is to use a silicone rubber mold. Pour chocolate, melted in a double boiler or microwave, into each cavity in the mold. Or, simply fill the cavities with chocolate pieces or chips and microwave the whole construct. The goal is to completely fill all the details of the mold with melted chocolate.
I recommend microwaving the chocolate in a thick sided bowl because it holds the heat and reduces the need to reheat. Work with modest amounts of chocolate and absolutely avoid scorching or burning the chocolate. Pour the liquid chocolate into the mold. Shake the mold to settle and level the chocolate; refrigerate the mold. After achieving that most basic step to making chocolates, your creativity can take over.
Craft stores that sell molds generally also sell candy chips in a variety of colors, suitable for melting. In a mold of roses, a red chip goes in first, followed by brown chips. The resulting candy presents a red rose flower against the contrasting brown leaves. Craft stores may also sell edible paint and other decorations. However, I find that real chocolate melts quicker and gives a better result.
No-cook marzipan might be even easier to make than chocolates. At its simplest, marzipan is a sweet paste made of ground nuts, sugar, and egg for binder. Most commonly made from almonds, every candymaker’s method and recipe differs. Cooking the almond paste gives marzipan a distinctive, satiny texture and pliability. Candy crafters use the paste, in a variety of colors, to create complex designs, model characters and even build scenes. At its pinnacle, marzipan can be a royal, multicolored presentation, complete with glazing and candied fruits.
No Cooking Needed Nut Paste
The simplest rendering of the classic nut paste. Use flavorings, colors and added ingredients to finish the confection. Makes about 2 pounds
3 cups confectioners’ sugar (granulated sugar makes a grainier paste)
12 ounces almonds, blanched, peeled and finely ground
2 egg whites, lightly beaten (yolks make a richer, denser paste)
1 teaspoon orange-flower water or similar
Combine sugar and almonds together. Slowly stir in enough egg white to form a thick, kneadable paste. Coat your hands with confectioners’ sugar and knead the paste until it pulls away from the bowl in a single mass. Coat a work surface and pastry roller with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the paste to desired thickness.
Sprinkle on the orange flavoring; add chopped, candied lemon peel or mini chocolate chips; color the paste; or again, let your creativity take over. Fold the paste, briefly knead again to mix, and again roll out to the desired thickness. Cut to shape and size.